The Korea IT Times spoke with Mayor Ahn Sang-soo of the Metropolitan City of Incheon regarding the city's strengths and weaknesses in becoming the hub of Northeast Asia, the city's specific role in maintaining and improving Korea's IT lead in the region, and Incheon City's cooperation system with an educational-industriallaboratorial network to become a hub of Northeast Asia etc.
Q: As a gateway and a hub of Northeast Asia, Incheon is an area with good geographical advantages. Yet compared with neighboring nations, we think Incheon has vulnerabilities, that need improvement as well as development. Please elaborate on the competitive and weak points and further alternatives for the metropolitan city of Incheon to serve as a hub of Northeast Asia.
A: Incheon's conditions are superior as a gateway city of Northeast Asia, considering that Incheon has two billion potential tourists within three hours of its international airport, and considering that 50 percent of Korea's population is within two hours by land access, and the city's location is excellent to absorb large numbers of China's 1.3 billion people.
Recently, the City of Incheon is becoming the leading area to spur our nation's economy as an international business and logistics center of operations by concentrating all of our capacity toward the goal of making it the Northeast Asian economic center. This goal is helped by our government-participatory development strategy and the success of the Incheon Free Economic Zone.
On the other hand, tasks requiring solutions, as well as bottlenecks in the way of the vision, are piled mountain high. Above all, the balanced development of the established former center of Incheon City with the Incheon Free Economic Zone as well as improvement in the quality of life is urgent. It is particularly urgent before everything else to expand early infrastructure, considering that in five years the success or failure of the free economic zone will be decided.
Q: What are the key policies of the City of Incheon to nurture the IT industry, and what is the Incheon area's specific role in making our nation the IT hub of Northeast Asia
A: Our city's IT industry nurturing strategy will allow us to bring efficiencies in investment by concentrating limited financial resources and policies selectively on fields that are first of all competitive and have possibilities. Along with this, the City of Incheon is forming the Songdo Information New City that will play a center role in leading Korea's IT industry, as the first and the most ambitious ubiquitous city in the world.
In the 16 million pyeong of Songdo New City, that was designated as a free economic zone in August 2003, an ultramodern biotech complex and a knowledge information industrial complex will be built by 2020. The international business center has a scheduled completion date of 2008. Currently, infrastructure construction such as roads, bridges, and water supply and drainage are briskly under way. In particular, the City of Incheon is devoting efforts to make Songdo New City as a full-scale Ubiquitous city for the first time in the world. Accordingly, we expect that Incheon, including Songdo New City, will play a critical role as a hub city of Northeast Asian IT.
Q: Would you introduce the educational-industrial-laboratorial network cooperation scheme that the City of Incheon is promoting to help it become the center of the Northeast Asia hub
A: Compared with other cities or provinces, the City of Incheon has few universities or laboratories. However, to boost educational-industrial-laboratorial cooperation in the Incheon area, the city is devoting many efforts toward network construction, and will strengthen capacity of educational- and industrial-related subjects at eight universities. To expand the Incheon IT industry's developmental foundation, our city has launched the "Incheon IT Knowledge-based Clusters" that unite IT industry-related experts in one zone. Particularly, to nurture the auto parts industry as a leading high value-added cluster in the community, we have plans to help it by investing \72.3 billion by 2009.
Q: Could you go over Songdo New City's current status as well as the present condition of foreign investment in key projects such as the IT industry complex and Ubiquitous city establishment
A: The Songdo area, one of three areas of the Incheon Free Economic Zone, is being developed with international business and knowledge-based industry as key functions in a total area of 16.11 million pyeong. Already foreign capital investment has started in the international affairs complex, knowledge information industry complex, and ultra-modern biotech complex.
In the coming years, Songdo New City will be formed as a city that accommodates 180,200 people by 2008 and 252,500 persons by 2020 on 16.11 million pyeong of land, according to the development plan of the Incheon Free Economic Zone. Songdo New City's strength is that it can offer the best international business competitiveness for foreigners coupled with agreeable living conditions by including an ultra-modern information telecommunication infrastructure, as well as a new traffic system surpassing Shanghai and Singapore's.
Q: Finally, we think that in order for Incheon to take root as a hub of Northeast Asia, automation in such diverse areas as its logistics system, traffic system, and control system is acutely necessary. How big is the annual budget the City of Incheon is investing in IT infrastructure, and what is the present condition of its IT infrastructure construction
A: The City of Incheon will transform Incheon into the most dynamic logistics and information center in the world by intensively fostering development as a logistics hub, R&D hub, and a tourism leisure hub, among others. As part of our city's differentiation strategy with competing cities in Northeast Asia, we have decided to construct an information "U-City" that features convenience of citizens' lives, ease of access to public and social sectors, the convenience of city management, and profit creation for corporations. For this, we are reinforcing our research service in the interests of state-of-the-art city base construction as well as strategy establishment. For the sake of IT infrastructure expansion in diverse fields, our city is investing over \20 billion every year.