Business Korea interviewed Incheon City mayor Song Young-gil, who is very busy these days preparing for the 2014 Asian Games and the opening of the Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). “We’re going to make an additional investment of 370.8 billion won within this year so that the construction of the nine stadiums, including the main stadium, progresses smoothly,” he said regarding the Asian Games, adding that more government support through a timely revision to the 2014 Asian Games Support Act is necessary for expanded government expenditure. He added, “We, as the host of the Secretariat, are doing our utmost to become one of the global hubs of green finance and green industry for sustainable global economic growth.”
What is your long-term roadmap to position Incheon City as the linchpin of the Asian economy?
We are currently benchmarking some cities in advanced nations whose historical and geographical backgrounds or future visions are similar to ours. The examples include Yokohama, Japan, which has turned itself into a place where the future and the past are in perfect harmony through the Minato Mirai Project launched back in the 1980s, Shanghai China, which is the center of Asian economy and finance, Vancouver, Canada, which is leading the growth of eco-friendly industries, and Bologna, Italy, home to the most advanced type of social economy and productive welfare, characterized by well-developed social enterprises and co-ops.
The Songdo International City’s future slogan is Geneva in Korea: Global Green City. It will play host to a number of international organizations and conferences and the key social infrastructure will be further refined in the fields of education, public transportation, security, culture, etc.
At the same time, we are planning to establish green industry clusters for the financial, biotechnology, information technology and other sectors in order to become the venture capital center of Asia. The GCF, in this context, will be fully utilized for the revitalization of the domestic financial industry through the benchmarking of the advanced service functions of international financial hubs, ranging from legal and accounting consulting to tax, IT, and personnel training services.
Lastly, Incheon City will become a foothold for global service industries. We will make the most of the Seoul/Incheon International Airport to boost the tourism, leisure, shopping and entertainment industries, all of which boast high job creation effects.
Incheon City in general, as well as the Songdo region, will grow into a center of green business, knowledge-based industries and so forth by raising its global brand value as a leading international city. The GCF, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Green Technology Center (GTC) will spearhead global green growth so that the region can lead the green finance and industries of the future.
What is the current progress of the establishment of the GCF Secretariat in Songdo? What economic effects do you expect from hosting the organization?
After the decision was made, we organized a task force to work on follow-up measures and plans, while also speeding up our preparations for the construction of Incheon City as Global Green Capital, began negotiations for further support, and looked at how to improve residential conditions. The GCF Secretariat is expected to be opened in Songdo between June and July next year, not long after the related agreement is wrapped up between the Korean government and GCF headquarters.
At present, Incheon City is paying keen attention to the preparation of office areas, guidebooks for visitors, global centers and so on, so that the secretariat can be opened and operated as scheduled.
According to the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the hosting of the secretariat is expected to result in 380 billion won of economic benefits annually, assuming that 500 GCF employees stay there. The Incheon Development Institute (IDI) has also estimated the regional economic effect at approximately 190 billion won per year. It will contribute to work to attract more investment into the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) as well.
In addition, it will act as a sort of political and diplomatic bridge between developed and developing nations, increasing its influence in the international community and helping relieve tension between the two Koreas. Furthermore, in social, cultural and environmental aspects, it will be a boon to the city’s brand image as a leading low-carbon, green city.
You are currently intending to attract a new office of the World Bank as a prerequisite for the hosting of the GCF. What are the specific details and anticipated economic benefits?
Once the office of the World Bank is determined to be located in Incheon, the local government will provide as much financial support as it will do to the GCF Secretariat. For now, we are planning to rent an entire floor of the Songdo i-Tower to the World Bank office free of charge, while also reducing electricity, water bills, etc.
Furthermore, we will provide high-speed Internet networks and facility repair and maintenance services for free, along with interior design services and various appliances and equipment. The conference facilities of the Songdo i-Tower and the Songdo ConventiA will also be provided free of charge. In all, the benefits amount to approximately 590 million won a year.
According to the policy of the GCF Design Committee, which governs how to run the secretariat, the fund is to be deposited in the World Bank for three years. In addition, on the part of the World Bank, it is more advantageous to share the venue with the executive office of the large-scale international body of GCF.
Please leave a word to the people at home and abroad who are closely watching Incheon City making headway into the economic hub of Northeast Asia.
Incheon has many comparative advantages in terms of transport infrastructure and international logistics networks. The Seoul/Incheon International Airport has been selected as the world’s best airport for seven consecutive years, and 79 airlines fly from there to 182 cities worldwide as of 2012. The best transport logistics infrastructure of the airport will be more closely linked to the IFEZ to accelerate the development of future growth drivers.
In the meantime, Incheon Port is the center of maritime transportation in Northeast Asia, connecting the major cities of South and North Koreas and port cities around the world. Once the Northern Port and the Southern Port are completed, it will become the largest international port city of the Northeast Asian continent.
Incheon’s growth potential knows no bounds. It is home to a large, highly-educated workforce, and is situated in the vicinity of the Seoul metropolitan area with a population of more than 20 million. Furthermore, it is just a stone’s throw from China, where more than 350 million consumers are enjoying an annual income of over US$30,000.
In particular, the Songdo region is just 15 minutes drive away from the Seoul/Incheon International Airport through the 21km-long Incheon Grand Bridge, which was completed in October 2009. From the airport, you can fly to 61 major cities with a population of 1 million population each, including Shanghai and Tokyo, in no more than three hours.
Incheon is open to Northeast Asia beyond China, all the way to Mongolia and Siberia. The city will add to the hope of Korea by fostering regional exchange. The IFEZ, which covers Songdo, Yeongjong and Cheongna, will be at the vanguard of such efforts.
The hosting of the GCF Secretariat will further enhance Incheon’s global competitiveness. The secretariat will represent the IFEZ and serve as significant momentum for the global city of Incheon to become even more future-oriented and eco-friendly.
The IFEZ promises that it will create one of the world’s three largest free economic zones by pursuing and meeting the three ambitious goals; the development into an global city home to a lot of international organizations, establishment of service industry hubs as the provider of the best financial, shopping, tourism and leisure services, and finally the construction of the top-class eco-friendly city.