Daegu is the host city of the 7th World Water Forum, which will be held at the city’s convention center, EXCO, from April 12 to 17, 2015, together with North Gyeongsang Province. The expo is expected to provide an opportunity for the city and the country to project an image of leading the water industry at home and abroad, giving the local water industry more chances to enter overseas markets. Daegu City is paying full attention and making every effort to prepare for the great success of the forum. At the center of such efforts is Jhin Yong-hwan, Director General of World Water Forum Support Bureau. Business Korea sat with him to hear what the city is preparing and aiming to achieve by hosting the global event. Excerpts from the interview with him are as follows.
Would you briefly explain the difference between the coming forum and previous ones?
Held every three years near World Water Day (March 22), the World Water Forum is the world’s largest water event. It’s like the Olympic Games for the water industry.
The 7th World Water Forum will be held here in Daegu under the slogan of “Water for Our Future.” It will the first time for the nation and the second time for an Asian country to host the event.
The core message of this forum is “implementation.” While previous meetings focused on seeking various solutions, the 7th forum is aimed at building a mechanism for putting ideas into action.
To achieve the goal, a science and technology process was created for the 2015 forum, which will serve as an opportunity to promote exchange of technologies between countries – an important tool for implementing new ideas – and to become a critical part of achieving the sustainable development of related technologies.
What is the significance of selecting Daegu City and North Gyeongsang Province to host the next forum, and what are the expected effects?
The Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province region (Daegyeong region) is the center of political and cultural activity in the nation, which has been developed centered on the Nagdong River. The region is the prime example of a place where waterrelated problems such as water pollution, water shortages, and disasters driven by industrial modernization were addressed wisely.
The 7th World Water Forum will serve as an opportunity for the region to create an image of an area that leads the water industry at home and abroad by speeding up the creation of a water industry cluster and the promotion of water companies, which Daegu is currently pushing ahead.
In addition, we anticipate that local companies will improve the image of the local water industry, and thus have more opportunities to enter overseas markets. It will be made possible by sharing our technologies for water management and experiences with other countries through the new Science & Technology process.
The forum is likely to create 2,500 new jobs and generate 260 billion won (US$243 million) in economic ripple effects, which includes 130 billion won (US$121 million) in production inducement effects, 60 billion won (US$56 million) in value-added inducement effects, and 70 billion won (US$65.5 million) in consumer spending.
What are the present conditions of the national water industry? And what kinds of benefits are expected from the fact that our country will host next year’s forum?
The nation’s water industry was worth about 16 trillion won (US$14.9 billion) as of 2011, a 3.4 trillion won increase from 2007. The 2011 figure indicates that Korea is the eighthlargest market in the world.
The global water market was estimated at US$500 billion as of 2010, more than twice the number of the semiconductor or shipbuilding industries, and it is projected to grow more than 4 percent each year. Our country has world-class technologies in desalination plants that convert sea water to drinking water, and water supply and drainage systems, and thus local firms are expanding their presence overseas.
However, the extent of local water firms’ overseas expansion was valued at US$1.5 billion as of 2008, making up merely 0.3 percent of the global water market. Hence, the field has enormous potential to be another growth engine of our creative economy.
The water market is still dominated by the West, but water markets in Asia are expected to grow fast. Moreover, the combined management of water resources is emerging as a new foundation of the water industry. So, I’m confident that we will be able to sharpen our competitive advantage in the world market, if we take advantage of opportunities to integrate our geographical advantage and advanced IT technologies into the water industry.
What are the main points about the creation of a water industry cluster? How much progress has been made in the five-year plan that our country is pushing forward?
On Nov. 19, 2013, the creation of a water industry cluster in Daegu was chosen as a project on which a feasibility study would be conducted. The project is aimed at nurturing the local water industry, and it is one of many new infrastructure projects promised in President Park Geun-hye’s presidential campaign pledges.
The 165,000 square meter water industry cluster will be built in the Daegu National Industrial Park, with an investment of 351.9 billion won (US$329.4 million) from 2013 to 2017. It will attract and support companies related to the water industry by creating organizations such as a water industry support facility, a large-scale testbed research complex, and a water industry complex. In particular, the water industry support facility will play as a control tower to promote the national water industry, developing water-related materials, nurturing human resources, and supporting business development and marketing.
The Daegyeong region houses companies that retain core technologies related to the water industry, along with mechatronics firms and textile companies. So, it is possible to foster the water industry by developing the materials and processes of the industry through the integration of those companies in the region. In particular, Daegu is abundant in natural resources, since it has rivers like Nakdong River and Geumho River. Related industries like Information Technology (IT) and Bio Technology (BT) are developed in the area, and it is easy to get professionals from outstanding universities in the region. Thus, Daegu is an excellent place to establish a water industry cluster.
Based on these favorable conditions, the construction of a water industry cluster, a facility for the advancement of the water industry, a comprehensive water industry testbed research complex, and an integrated water industry complex will make the area into a hub of the nation’s water industry.
To be specific, the facility for advancement of the water industry will play a role as a control tower to nurture the country’s water industry. It will provide support for the development of components and materials for the water industry. It will also help tenant companies with high-skilled manpower training, their marketing campaigns, and businesses. The Korean Water Partnership, water research institutes, and business centers are going to move in the facility.
The comprehensive water industry testbed research complex will have facilities for testing new water-related technologies. The complex is aimed at providing support for projects about water supply and drainage systems and wastewater reuse. In addition, projects to advance technologies for low carbon water treatment components and devices, and testbed projects for a smart water system and components used in wastewater treatment systems through the convergence of IT, BT, and Nanotechnology will get support as well.
The 48,000 square meter integrated water industry complex is expected to create synergy by attracting 200 water firms at home and abroad and supporting the development of new technologies. It will also provide support for marketing campaigns, promote overseas expansion of tenant companies, and encourage the sharing of technologies and information between companies. Starting with the creation of a basic plan in May 2013, the construction of the complex is scheduled to begin in 2016 and finish in 2017. Then, Daegu will receive a lot of attention as a mecca where new water-related technologies are created.
What is your plan to attract tenant companies? And what about incentives?
We are scheduled to hold a briefing in Seoul during April to attract businesses connected with the 7th World Water Forum, and to find a way to support enterprises through symposia in the latter half of this year.
To tenant companies, we are going to provide the industrial land necessary for new investment as much as possible, and to establish a custom-made specialized complex. To large-scale investment enterprises, we are planning to offer unprecedented incentives based on their investment and employment size by stipulating a Daegu Metropolitan City Ordinance on Company Support that they be provided subsidies of up to 50 percent of total investment.