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Aiming for Eco-friendly Economic Capital of Korea through Tourism Resources and Advanced Technology
Interview with Vice Governor
Aiming for Eco-friendly Economic Capital of Korea through Tourism Resources and Advanced Technology
  • By matthew
  • May 7, 2014, 06:56
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Kim Sun-woo, vice governor of Jeju Special Self-governing Province for Economy & Environment.
Kim Sun-woo, vice governor of Jeju Special Self-governing Province for Economy & Environment.

 

Jeju is moving ahead with both the Carbon-free Island and Global Environmental Capital Projects, chasing two hares at once. The idea is to boost its attraction by turning itself into the global hub of green industry and tourism, where advanced power and IT are combined with its excellent natural environment.

“The eco-friendly industries in Jeju are at their early stage for now, but we are focusing on their great contributions to sustainable environments and environmental restoration,” said Kim Sun-woo, vice governor of Jeju Special Self-governing Province for Environment Economy & Environment adding, “We will foster the eco-friendly economy by means of new and renewable energy, advanced green industry, the healthcare industry, etc.”

Jeju launched the Carbon-free Island 2030 Project in 2012. Could you tell us more about that?

The goal is to make the entire region carbon-free by 2030. The testbed was set up in Gapado in its first phase and the ratio of smart grids, electric vehicles (EVs), and new and renewable energy sources such as wind power will be raised to at least 50 percent of the total energy demand in the second stage to be completed in 2020. In the final one, offshore wind power generation systems with a combined capacity of 2 GW will be built by 2030 to decrease its power dependency to zero.

Can you break the project down by segment?

Jeju will become the center of a smart grid, which is key infrastructure for the undertaking, from 2015 when the system is applied to the entire island. Last year, Jeju was selected as a target region in the two segments of the Smart Grid Development Project led by the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy. In this framework, EV and alternative energy-associated development models will be applied to maximize the region’s advantages, and home-level smart grid systems will be in operation from 2020.

The National Smart Grid Interoperability Testing Center, which was won last year, is scheduled to be completed within this year and run from 2015. It is expected to add to the merits of Jeju, along with the Demonstration Complex, as a testbed of the state-of-theart technology.

In the meantime, the ratio of alternative energy sources will be raised to 100 percent in the power sector by 2030. From 2019, 50 percent of the local power supply will be from on-land wind power facilities with a capacity of 350 MW and 1 GW offshore wind power stations. The latter is planned to be doubled by 2030. The EV infrastructure of Jeju is second to none in Korea. Building on this advantage, we will convert 100 percent of the vehicles in the region to EVs by 2030. The target for 2017 is 10 percent or 29,000 units, mainly in the public sector and mass transit, and that for 2020 is 30 percent or 94,000 units, the best part of which will be buses and rental cars. The percentage is 10 percent higher than that of the central government for the year of 2020.

Once the Carbon-free Island Project is wrapped up in 2030, greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by 30 million tons, and approximately 40,000 decent jobs will be created in the green industry to result in a production inducement effect of 13.5 trillion won and 5.8 trillion won worth of added value, not to mention the huge synergy effect among industrial sectors.

The vision of Global Environmental Capital is drawing much attention as well. What is the background?

Jeju Island is a treasure of the world beloved by people around the globe. It is not only one of the Seven Wonders of Nature but a part of the Biosphere Reserve, the World Natural Heritage, and Global Geoparks of UNESCO.

Two years ago, the World Conservation Congress was held with great success in Jeju. The Jeju Declaration was adopted there as the first declaration in the history of the conference to be named after the hosting region. Five region-specific agenda items were adopted as the resolutions of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), including those for the development of evaluation and certification systems for the World Environmental Hubs, establishment of an integrated management system for Jeju as the Protected Area, and support for the preservation and utilization of the Gotjawal lava forests. All of these prove the significance of Jeju as a valuable environmental asset.

What roadmaps do you have concerning this point?

In the first phase of 2013, we enacted the bill for the Special Act on the Development of Global Environmental Capital while setting up the Cyber Environment Network of World Local Governments. Also, a joint governance framework was formed for the participation of global environmental advisory boards of academic experts and international organizations such as the UNEP and the IUCN.

In the second phase lasting until 2018, the Long-term Environmental Cooperation MOU was concluded between Jeju and the IUCN on January 27 this year. The Jeju World Leaders’ Conservation Forum will be held while the assessment and certification systems for the World Environmental Hubs will be adopted. At the same time, eco-friendly practices are going to be popularized for the co-development of the environmental, social and economic systems of Jeju.

Slated for the following two years are the realization of a Carbon-neutral City, restoration of the Hanon Crater, and appointment by international bodies as the Global Environmental Capital to set up an exemplary model of environmental cooperation and development.

It is said that Jeju has three directions in implementing its conservation-centered environment policy.

The natural environments of Jeju are priceless. These days, well-preserved environments are regarded to be much more valuable than any other resources. Countries around the world are striving to reduce carbon emissions and cope with climate change.

It is in this context that Jeju applies the strictest environmental standards in Korea. Its ecological preservation systems are considered to be the most developed form of its kind, too. The local government will introduce a total environmental resources management system so as to prevent a decrease in the total area of natural resources and suppress sprawling development. The local environmental standards covering the air and rivers of the region are reinforced from this year, too.

As is well known, it is not easy to strike a perfect balance between environment and economy. In Jeju, preservation sites are present even in development areas in the forms of swamps and Gotjawal. Unconditional restriction of development is no answer in view of reality, either. We are doing our utmost to minimize environmental destruction and ensure sustainability at those places where development projects are underway.

Last year, manufacturing exports from Jeju exceeded US$300 million. What strategies are on your list for export assistance and investment attraction?

We are aiming to at least double the presence of the manufacturing sector to the gross regional domestic product to approximately 6 percent by 2021 and triple that of companies with annual sales exceeding three billion won to 26 percent, while quadrupling the manufacturing exports to over US$40 million from the US$11 million recorded in 2009.

The tentative figure, as you mentioned, topped US$300 million at the end of last year, as the processed food and cosmetics exports increased, and those relocated to Jeju sped up their overseas business. The number of local exporters jumped from 114 to more than 240 between 2009 and 2013, and the number of their export items is now over 200.

This year, the local government will house the Small and Midsize Enterprise Export Support Center for better assistance, and further cement the foundation of the sector so more gazelle companies can do business here. The Seven-year Plan for the Future Vision of Small and Midsize Enterprises and its action plans are soon to be established. I hope that Jeju’s export policy will make a great contribution to the national export policy of the central government with which Korea could top the one trillion won mark in annual trade volume.