Gumi City, which was previously known mainly as an industrial city, has set the foundation to become a place where industry, culture, welfare, and environment are blended in harmony. In addition, as the original city of the Saemaeul Movement, Gumi is working to become a global hub to guide and support the national development of underdeveloped economies to create future prosperity. Based on such achievements, Mayor Nam Yoo-chin, now in his third term after winning the regional government elections in June this year, wants to see his city become the representative of the nation’s convergence and creative economy. BusinessKorea sat down with him to hear about his plans and dreams to develop the city into a “Premium Global Standard City.” Excerpts from an interview with him follow.
We would like to give our belated congratulations on your third term as the mayor of Gumi City.
First of all, I would like to thank all of the Gumi citizens who supported me at the June 4 local election. I will return the favor by keeping up with the currently ongoing projects for successful completion and turning the city into a better and more thriving place, based on the past accomplishments, during the four-year term ahead.
Please evaluate your own accomplishments during the past eight years.
During the last eight years, Gumi City has achieved a lot of things under the goal of “Premium Global Standard City” thanks to full support from the citizens. The city, which was previously known mainly as an industrial city, has set the foundation to become a coveted place where culture, welfare, and environment blend in harmony. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude again for the endeavors of the citizens, companies, and workers in Gumi.
The Gumi Industrial Complex is slated to become the largest inland industrial zone in Korea, with an area of 42.3 km2, through the expansion of the Fifth and Fourth Complexes. In addition, the old First Complex was designated in March this year as an Innovation Cluster, and regeneration projects are scheduled there for the revitalization of the entire complex. No less than 11.6 trillion won [US$11.1 billion] of investment was attracted from companies both at home and abroad. The number of companies in the city has exceeded 3,000, and that of workers broke the 110,000 mark.
During the course, we went through a hydrofluoric acid leak in September 2012, which was an unprecedented industrial accident. However, Gumi turned the crisis into an opportunity by housing Korea’s first National Chemical Disaster Prevention Center for safer and healthier urban infrastructure. The 10 Million Tree Planting Campaign made the city even greener along with Korea’s finest eco-friendly waste recycling facilities. Also, it adopted wirelessly charged electric buses for the first time in the world while opening the Zero Carbon Education Center for an environmentally-friendly future.
Gumi also developed unique cultural and tourism content based on the legacy of the late former President Park Jeonghee and his Saemaeul Campaign. The Park Jeong-hee National Restoration Museum will be opened soon, and the area surrounding his birthplace will be turned into a park. Also, the Saemaeul Movement Theme Park will appeal to tourists from all around the world.
When it comes to education and welfare, education aid has increased by 41-fold to 28.6 billion won [US$27.4 million] in eight years, and the ratio of free meal beneficiaries went up to 43.4 percent at elementary and middle schools. Various types of essential vaccinations for infants and toddlers are now completely free of charge, which is just a part of its diverse welfare policy that has allowed Gumi City to be selected as an Excellent Welfare Policy Provider by the Ministry of Health & Welfare for eight years in a row.
These accomplishments resulted in us winning second place in the recent Korean Local Government Competitiveness Evaluation, the grand prize at the 10th Regional Industry Policy Awards, and as many as 298 more prizes. I personally was granted nine prizes, including the Best CEO title at the Korean Local Governance Awards of last year and the Creative Economy CEO Award of this year, too. All of these reflect the reputation of Gumi as one of the most competitive cities in Korea.
What is your policy direction for the new term?
The key words of my third term are safety, happiness, and communication. During the past few years, Gumi has developed itself externally or quantitatively, but I believe that the people’s happiness matters as much. This is why the local government put forth the slogan of “Safe Gumi and Happy Citizens.” It will communicate more closely with the people in its quest to become a Global Standard Premium City, and its Happiness Plan 119 is a specific evidence of its promise.
In the economy, the city will move ahead with the 8-8-8 Project, the purpose of which is to create 80,000 jobs, bring in investment of 8 trillion won [US$7.6 billion] and attract national projects worth 8 trillion won as well. The extension of the Fifth and Fourth Complexes mentioned earlier will be implemented ahead of schedule to that the industrial complexes can become the foothold of future growth.
On the culture side, the construction of the Saemaeul Movement Theme Park and the park neighboring the former President’s birthplace will be completed earlier than scheduled. A municipal museum and an exhibition center in honor of the former President will also be built so that people from all across the world can appreciate the content. Various leisure sports facilities for water sports experiences, auto camping and the like are set up in the wide riverside areas obtained from the Four River Restoration Project, excluding the preservation areas, in the Nakdong Riverside Project. It will add to the appeal of Gumi as an attractive tourist destination.
As far as welfare is concerned, Gumi City is aiming to become Korea’s most female-friendly city and further refine its welfare networks for people of all genders and ages by means of more call taxis for the physically disabled, low-floor buses, the municipal crematorium, etc. The 100 Billion Won Scholarship Project will continue, and free school meals will be made available for all of the elementary and middle schools in the city.
How is foreign investment going in Gumi and what is Gumi’s appeal to foreign investors?
The city is home to the Gumi Industrial Complex, which has led the export activities of Korea for four decades. Approximately 110,000 people with accumulated expertise are working there, and industrial water is supplied at an inexpensive price thanks to the Nakdong River flowing through the region. Samsung Electronics and LG Display form the center of the regional economy and their 3,000 partner firms are doing brisk business by making use of the advanced industrial infrastructure.
Gumi launched investment attraction activities targeting foreign companies in 2002 for the first time among primary local governments. The attraction of foreign company investment has led to industrial diversification and introduction of the advanced technology of global players for higher technological competitiveness. Toray Advanced Materials, Asahi Glass Fine Techno Korea and many other component and material manufacturers have placed themselves in the Foreign Investment District established in 2004. This has resulted in import replacement so that the trade deficit vis-à-vis Japan decreased from US$2.3 billion to US$500 million between 2006 and last year.
As mentioned earlier, Gumi City has created 30,000 jobs by attracting an investment of 11.66 trillion won [US$11.15 billion] from 579 companies since July 2006. Foreign investment accounted for 2.4 trillion won [US$2.3 billion] of it, from 16 companies and 1,800 new jobs. At present, ZF, Elring Klinger, Lusem, and Korea Optical High-tech are transferring their advanced production technology to Korea. A group of city officials are planning to visit the main office and research institute of Toray in Japan from Septe. 28 in order to bring in more Japanese component and materials companies. From Oct. 13, they will attend the Volkswagen Auto Parts Business Meeting to attract more German companies.
These days, export of the Saemaeul Campaign to developing countries is gaining speed. How is Gumi engaged in it as the origin of the movement?
The Saemaeul Movement started on April 22, 1970, led by the late former President Park Jeong-hee. Since then, Gumi has never been lax in the movement. I would like to stress that Gumi City has made great efforts to succeed with the spirit of the movement and recreate it to suit today’s environments.
In this context, we successfully hosted the Korea Saemaeul Expo in 2009, looking back on the history of the movement and reconfirming that Gumi is the origin of the nationwide campaign. More than 300,000 people joined the expo to appreciate the promising future of the movement and share their thoughts on its value.
The Saemaeul Cleaning Campaign has been underway on the first day of every month since July 2006 with the Saemaeul Flea Market on each second Saturday. The 36 Saemaeul Libraries found across the city have increased the people’s awareness of reading, and Global Saemaeul Campaigns have been launched in 10 countries including the Philippines, China, the Congo, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Mongolia, for the common prosperity of the global village. The Saemaeul Origin City Declaration Ceremony took place on Sept. 2012 to show the world that Gumi is the historic symbol of the movement and it is the driving force for the premium city of Gumi and the green future of Korea.
The Saemaeul Movement Theme Park broke ground in March 2012 in this vein, too. In total, 88.8 billion won is going to be invested into a 250,949 m2 wide area near the birthplace of the former President in Sangmosagok-dong so that museums, training centers, plazas, and reproduction villages can be set up with a total area of 28,414 m2 by March 2016. The theme park will be a place where young Koreans unfamiliar with the campaign can learn about the source of the Miracle of the Han River that accelerated Korea’s modernization and a global hub where less-developed nations can get a hint of national development models for future prosperity.
Gumi is one of the largest industrial cities in Korea. How is it dealing with the worldwide issue of carbon emissions reduction?
I believe that Gumi, having grown as an industrial city for 40 years, bears a huge responsibility for climate change. I am also confident that Gumi has to become a zero carbon city in the long term if the products it produces are not to be discounted but seen as premium.
The Carbon Zero City Declaration was made in this context on April 20, 2010. According to the declaration, the establishment of the zero-carbon road map was completed in December 2011 so that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 35 percent more than the BAU by the end of 2020. The city government is currently proceeding with 80 specific day-to-day activities like Carbon Point and Green Apartment Search with local citizens, and the Zero Carbon Education Center was opened on June 19 of this year. The center, covering the Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province region, will promote the awareness of climate change and action plans for carbon emissions reduction.
E-buses have been put into operation after testing in August last year. The buses are characterized by being charged, even without any plugs, while stopping on the road. The world’s first wireless charging technology was developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) and selected as one of the best 50 inventions of 2010 by TIME magazine.
A number of large-scale international events have been held by Gumi recently. What are examples and their significance?
The Korean Women’s International Network 2014 was held between Aug. 26 and 29. There, Korean women leaders around the world gathered together to discuss major female issues, bring up their suggestions and talking over the role of women in a future society. Approximately 500 female leaders participated in the conference from 34 countries including the United States, Australia, Germany, Russia, and France.
The Local Government Exchange Conference of the three Northeast Asian countries took place for four days from Sept. 1 and local government personnel of Korea, Japan, and China, which constitute one important pillar of the global economy, agreed to expand their exchange and cooperation for new growth opportunities in the era of the creative economy. This year, the number of participants amounted to 520, despite the diplomatic tensions among the three nations.
What is remarkable is that both of the events used to be hosted by cities larger than Gumi in the past. This implies how Gumi’s standing and reputation as an international city have been raised. The 2014 Korean Architect Congress is scheduled for October and the 11th Korea Youth Expo is held next year with 10,000 and 170,000 people expected to participate in the respective events. The city government will make thorough preparations for the occasions for great economic effects and further increase the international standing of Gumi as a cultural and tourist hot spot.
What picture are you drawing for the expiration of your term?
The year of 2014 is critical for Gumi in that it celebrates its 40th anniversary as a city and the 50th of the completion of the Gumi Industrial Complex. If the above-mentioned projects go off without a hitch, the city will attain US$50 billion in exports and 500,000 population and be home to the fifth National Industrial Cluster in four years.
I am eager to keep refining the city with abundant cultural resources and healthy environments, two of the most important elements of future-oriented economic centers. I promise I will put forth every effort so that the city can keep flourishing in the future.