Gangwon Province is considered a region with a pristine mountain environment and a long coastline. It has long been the destination of many tourists, Koreans and foreigners alike. Particularly with its beautiful winter landscape as an asset, the province has been wishing to host the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018. It is also trying to develop its eco-friendly industries, while luring foreign investment.
The Korea IT Times met with Gangwon Province Governor Kim Jin-sun to hear about his views on the provincial government’s policies on tourism, industrial development, its bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2018, and its responses to climate change.
Q: You are serving as the governor of Gangwon Province for the third consecutive term. How would you appraise your achievements in past years
A: Honestly, I had been meaning to serve for two terms at the maximum as I thought eight years would be the most ideal period for a governor to materialize his vision and plan for the development and welfare of Gangwon Province. So I did not consider running for reelection for a third term, but it was inevitable for me to stand as a candidate once again for the sake of administrative consistency because I had been playing a pivotal role in the ongoing effort of attracting the 2014 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in those days.
To begin with, I want to choose the change in the mindset of citizens of the province as the most important intangible asset. Gangwon Province had traditionally been regarded as a less privileged, alienated region that lagged behind, making citizens overwhelmed with a sense of limitation and defeatism. But now I am confident to say that the attitude of the people has drastically changed to confidence and hope.
With this future-oriented atmosphere, the province has been dynamically achieving remarkable development in terms of the regional economy and welfare of the people. Transportation networks are conveniently connected to every corner of the province, allowing people in any place to reach the provincial capital city of Chuncheon in about two hours. Investments in advanced technologies such as knowledge-based industries and new renewable energy are increasing and more companies are moving into the region, creating a large number of new jobs. The renewable energy industry accounts for 7.4 percent of the total production of the province. The provincial government constructed 39 industrial complexes and is in the process of building 28 other complexes, attracting 934 companies from other parts of the nation and foreign countries since 2000. As part of its globalization effort, the provincial government hosted various international events, including the international tourism exposition, the conference of Leaders of Northeast Asia Local Governments, and the East Asia Inter-regional Tourism Forum. Over the past years, we have been striving to attract the Winter Olympics to Pyeongchang, and we recently decided to attract the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018. In an effort to build the port cities of Donghae and Sokcho as strongholds of international trade and tourism, we are expanding infrastructure and facilities.
Many statistical indices indicate that the province is growing dynamically. Its population, which had been declining for decades until 2007, began to increase since then. Its gross regional domestic product per capita, or GRDP, rose to W17.1 million (US$13,800) in 2008, an increase of 7.9 percent over the previous year. It ranks first in the country in production of eco-friendly agricultural products, representing 21 percent of the entire organic agricultural production of the nation. It also keeps the top post as a tourist destination in the country, luring 91 million visitors a year.
Q: People around the world are increasingly interested in unpolluted and clean foods. With a gifted natural environment such as fertile soil and affluent water, what is the strategy of your province for fostering agricultural industry
A: With a goal to raise income of farming households, the provincial government will continue fostering the production of eco-friendly and quality agricultural products. It aims to expand the area of eco-friendly agriculture from 6 percent of the total arable land of the province now to 10 percent by 2013. It will also promote 10 indigenous products, including Korean beef, ginseng, potato, waxy corn, medicinal plants, wine and honey, as representative brands. At the same time, it will promote green tourism to increase tourists in rural areas. Last year, about 15 million tourists visited agricultural areas, spending W180 billion (US$144.5 million). It intends to increase the number of such tourists to 20 million by 2013.
Q: As part of its effort to further improve the national image in the international community, the central government and tourism organizations set a goal to attract more than 11 million foreign tourists annually by 2013. Please introduce tourism products for foreign visitors of the province.
A: With a goal to build a tourism hub in Northeast Asia, the provincial government is actively developing all available resources as tourism programs. Some tourism programs attractive to foreign visitors include the demilitarized zone (DMZ) tourism course, green tourism programs, and cultural and artistic tourism programs. Tourists can enjoy DMZ tracking, walking along the inter-Korean border lines, and overnight stays at Buddhist temples. Or they can climb beautiful mountains and sightsee splendid seascapes along the east coast. They may even enjoy traditional folk music and performing arts as well as festivals. More than 1 million foreign tourists visited the province last year.
Q: What are your efforts to attract foreign investment
A: To improve accessibility to the Seoul metropolitan area, the municipal government is expanding transportation networks. Having nearly completed construction of the Seoul-Chuncheon Expressway, it plans to expand the Seoul-Chuncheon railway to a double-track line by 2010, commence construction of the second Yeongdong Expressway later this year, and build another expressway connecting the east and west coasts by 2013. Having appointed the project manager, the provincial government established a one-stop administrative support system for foreign investment. While designating an area of industrial complexes for foreign companies, it aims to have some of its industrial complexes designated as free economic zones by the central government. Under the strategy of promoting a clean region brand, it will focus on inducing foreign companies in areas of the low carbon, green growth, renewable energy, and bioscience and pharmaceutical industries.
Q: How do you address global climate change, and what is your strategy to reduce greenhouse gases
A: With 81 percent of its total area covered by forests producing 22 percent of the entire forest-generated oxygen in the nation, the province has been aggressively carrying out programs for green growth. It plans to increase the proportion of new and renewable energy in its total energy output from 7.4 percent now to 15 percent by 2030, while reducing greenhouse gases by 6 percent by 2012 compared to 2003. The provincial government will construct large solar energy towns in Chuncheon and Yeongwol, as well as 26 wind power plant complexes. Having established a research institute to seek ways of preventing climate change last year, it plans to attract more than three R&D organizations to develop solar energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and geothermal energy by 2012.