Icheon, the first UNESCO Creative City in Korea, is aiming to become self-sufficient with a population of 350,000. To this end, Mayor Cho Byung-don of Icheon City has been trying to build a strong foundation through a variety of projects. Icheon attracted 324 new companies to the city last year. In particular, Icheon brought in a jackpot at the end of last year, the factory expansion of SK Hynix, which is a huge milestone for regional development. SK Hynix plans to expand its factory by 500,000 m 2 and invest 15 trillion won (US$14.5 billion), hiring over 4,000 new employees either directly or indirectly. BusinessKorea had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with the mayor who was recently reelected in June this year.
Congratulations on your third election victory. Please tell us your ambitions after your inauguration.
I deeply thank the citizens of Icheon for giving me the third opportunity to dedicate myself to the city and service the city one more time. As I promised to my citizens, I will lead the sixth civil government elected by popular vote with all my passion and dreams.
I believe that my third victory shows the evaluation by the citizens of the last eight years in which I have led the fourth and fifth civil government under these difficult circumstances. This would be impossible without citizen confidence and trust in me. Before the delight of victory, I feel an infinite responsibility and strong sense of duty.
I have visited everywhere in the 14 eups, myuns, and dongs [different municipal areas – ed.] of Icheon for the last eight years. I have even come to realize the number of streetlamps, and the status of community halls and bridges in certain villages. I checked on and solved the complaints on the ground. My sixth civil government will continue to do so. Ritualistic and inefficient administration work will be minimized. As a part of this plan, there was no separate inauguration ceremony for the sixth civil government.
You passed a very tough gateway to the third victory. Could you introduce any plans for a great unification of citizens?
Although there is not a single easy thing in an election which shows a public judgment, this time was even harder in many aspects. My motto is ‘Man proposes, God disposes.’ I have tried my best in what I have had to do. I think God disposed upon my efforts.
There is fierce competition, disputes, winners, and losers in every election. The results of the election is the choice of citizens, which comes from previous sovereign power. But from now on, everyone needs to cooperate to enhance competitiveness of the city.
I understand that some citizens agree with my policies and directions, while some do not. I need both encouragement and criticism. There is no progress if there is only unilateral encouragement. A bitter reprimand is a great opportunity to think on my thoughts and actions in the past.
I will meet everyone more frequently to explain my ideas and provide a vision. I will open a wide path to great unification with the devotion of “one for all, and all for one,” as well as a strong team spirit.
Please tell us the operating directives of the municipal government.
First of all, I will establish a foundation for a planned city of 350,000 people and finish pending business. As the city of Icheon has approved the document “2020 Basic City Plans of Icheon,” this includes development of housing sites in Majang and the Jungri district for the first time in a nature conservation zone. Upon the completion of the housing site development, the foundation to jump to a planned city of 350,000 in Southeast Gyeonggi-do will be complete.
Second, I will make Icheon an economic city full of companies and jobs. One of the major businesses that Icheon has been promoting for past eight years is to invite companies to settle here. The city aimed to bring 300 companies in, but already reached 324 companies at the end of last year. Job creation by inviting companies will continue to be an important municipal policy in the sixth civil government.
The factory expansion of SK Hynix cannot be omitted in terms of job creation and corporate invitations. At the end of last year, Icheon brought in a jackpot, a factory expansion of SK Hynix, which will become a huge milestone of regional improvement. SK Hynix plans to expand its factory by 500,000m 2 and invest 15 trillion won (US$14.5 billion). Over 4,000 new employees will be hired either directly or indirectly. According to Seoul Institute of Economic and Social Studies, 55 trillion won (US$54 billion) of production inducement effects, 18 trillion won (US$17.5 billion) of added value effects, and 210,000 job creation effects are expected over the next seven years. Icheon will become the world’s major semiconductor city with a strong planned foundation.
Third, I will make Icheon a happy, harmonious, and energetic city for citizens. The City of Icheon will build a woman’s center to become a woman-friendly city, and try to eliminate sexual harassment, family violence, school violence, and child abuse. A rehabilitation center exclusively for the disabled will be built, and “happy coexistence,” a welfare system coordinated by private and government organizations together, will be systematically promoted. The city will also prioritize employment among elderly welfare policies, and provide jobs to old people who are capable of working in order to revitalize their lives.
Fourth, a ubiquitously convenient transportation system shall be formed. Transportation infrastructure will be radically improved during the sixth civil government. A dramatic change of Icheon will be achieved, with a little exaggeration. Initially, a Seongnam-Icheon-Yeoju double track subway line will be opened at the end of next year. Moreover, completion of Lot No. 6 and East Icheon IC between Seongnam-Janghowon expressway and an early start to construction of the IcheonChunghu section of Jungbu Naeryuk Raiway will be promoted. These wide open road networks will speed up the establishment of our family-oriented city.
Last but not least, I will build the best tourism city. I aim to invite 10 million tourists by making Icheon a four season tourism city. Tourism infrastructure businesses are being created for this. Major businesses such as Ceramic Art Village, expansion of Termeden, expansion of Unong Youth Holy Land, Lake Seongho Horseback Riding Village, Seohui Theme Park, Agricultural Theme Park, Baeksa Hanok Village, Lumber Experience Center, and Democratization Park are examples. All of these are planned to be completed during the sixth civil government. Especially, Icheon Ceramic Art Village (400,000 m 2 in size) is a huge project with a 42.2 billion won (US$41.1 million) budget. Construction is currently ongoing, and will be completed by 2016. One hundred items of experience tourism will be developed to make Icheon the best city for experiencing tourism. Agricultural experience tourism is also already actively promoted. There are five agricultural experience villages and 22 experience farms in Icheon. Icheon is within one hour of any metropolitan city including Seoul, Incheon, Suwon, and Seongnam. In order to vitalize tourism products of farm village experiences by utilizing this advantageous position, the city of Icheon founded Icheon Farm Village Visit Corporation in 2010.
Do you have any requests to citizens?
There remains a long journey to make Icheon a 350,000 person planned city. Twenty-four hours a day are not enough to go through numerous businesses such as inviting a four year collage, forming Hynix Town (IT Valley), creating East Icheon IC at Yeongdong Expressway, building a woman’s center, designing a 1 million pyeong Millenium Park at Sulbong Park, expanding support for innovative businesses of traditional markets, promoting the expansion of consolidated maintenance businesses for farm villages, and modernizing the livestock production facilities.
None of these can be and must not be done by myself alone. These are possible only when there is support and encouragement from citizens. I ask every citizen to actively participate in the municipal government activities to make Icheon an energetic, affluent, and ultimately the best city.
With the warm growth, the government together with citizens, faith in completion and a quantum leap, I will enhance the quality of our city. I will use my best efforts to gather all the powers and energies from all citizens. And I will devote my whole life to run towards a planned city with 350,000 people.