Today, it is the heartland of the global iron and steel and textile industries, thus playing the role of the locomotive engine for Korea's economic growth. Also blessed with the gift of nature and rich in cultural resources, it is now grooming itself to be the future center of global culture tourism. Through an interview with Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do, an overview of major projects in Gyeongsangbuk-do for 2009 is presented.
Q: What is the major policy direction of the administration for 2009
A: To sum up very briefly the major policy direction for Gyeongsangbukdo for 2009, it is to “overcome the current crisis and take a new leap forward.” In this situation, it is very important to make the utmost efforts to convey a feeling to the people that the economy is recovering. Thus, the Provincial Administration plans to complete placing orders for more than 90% of social overhead capital projects of the Province in the first half of this year, and within the legal limit offer opportunities to local construction companies to participate in more than 50% of the provincial SOC projects. It also plans to put into high gear the Nakdong River project in order to spur the Green Growth campaign and local economy.
In order to extend a helping hand to the money-strapped small and medium scale businesses that account for 68% of the total provincial employment, 3.48 trillion won will be released in the first half to alleviate their current tight money pressure. Of the 1.4 trillion budget for social welfare, 63% will be released in the first half for poverty-stricken people such as neglected old people living in solitude and starved children. In other words, through emergency relief measures, the provincial government will make it known to those people that the government is here to look after their welfare.
Equally important in overcoming the crisis is the preparation for the future. Last year, preparations for legal procedures and legislation that are badly needed for future development of Gyeongsanguk-do were completed. Through cooperation with the National Assembly members, four laws were enacted. To cite the major one first, a special law for development of the southern areas of east and west coasts was passed by the National Assembly. Gyeongsangbuk-do secured 4.96 trillion won in the national budget for 2009 and also 4 trillion in subsidy funds.
The government's land development policy was also changed by the persistent efforts of Gyeongsangbuk-do. The original L-shape land development plan that was centered on the southwestern coast was changed to a U-shape to include the eastern coastal areas and would eventually become a W-shape to include the Nakdong River and Baekdudaekan Range. As leading projects for the broader economic development zone, new renewable energy and complex IT industries were chosen and for the economic development zone now under study, the east coast energy- sightseeing belt project was chosen. It was also decided that an additional national industrial complex and spare parts-specializing industrial complex would be built in the Pohang and Gumi areas. The Pohang Free Trade Zone was also designated in anticipation of the opening of a new port. Thus, the enactment of four laws was completed.
Q: In the midst of economic slowdown, what are strategies for attracting foreign investmentA: With job creation as the supreme goal, I have met many CEOs, both local and foreign, to attract investment and inspect industrial sites. As a result, last year alone, I secured 6.60 trillion won in investment. In other words, I have attracted a total of 9.9 trillion won since I was elected to the current four-year term as Governor of Gyeongsangbuk-do and advanced the US$10 billion investment achievement goal by one and a half years. Particularly, 3.3 trillion won or 33% of the total investment is now for new renewable energy enterprises, thus laying the foundation for the new growth energy industry. Geographically speaking, 3.7 trillion won was secured for balanced development projects in the north. Regarding job creation, 30 odd investment- attracted businesses employed about 4,000 employees and the number is expected to reach more than 20,000 when all investment-attracted businesses are put into full-fledged operation.
Due to reduced limitations in the capital areas in attracting factories as part of measures to tide over the current global economic slowdown, the attraction of investment is expected to become more difficult for Gyeongsangbuk-do in 2009, but with the confidence gained by achieving the US$10 billion goal one and a half years earlier, the provincial government is determined to push through the scheduled investment plans. Under the Plus 10 Trillion Won Investment Strategy, the provincial government plans to achieve more than 5 trillion won investment a year. With new growth industries as the central targets, that is, the spare parts and new renewable energy industries, the campaign for investment inducement is largely launched for 2009 in close cooperation with more than 20 new projects now underway. Also, through the assistance of KOTRA and related organizations, new projects will be continuously explored.
By conducting explanation tours to attract investment from major industrial complexes in Gyeonggi-do such as Ansan and Incheon and also Ulsan, and by inviting CEOs of major businesses to industrial inspection tours, the provincial government would try to acquaint them with investment opportunities. In addition, an Investment Fair will also be held in cooperation with the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy, thus trying continuously to explore new projects.
For the benefit of foreign residents, efforts will be made to attract foreign schools here in cooperation with the Education Administration. "Investment Attraction Supporters" will be organized with local specialists and professionals, thus forming a personnel network for participation in all-inclusive investmentattracting activities.
Extra care will be taken in attracting businesses with continued care to eliminate any inconveniences for them. A Foreigners' Business Forum will be operated with visiting programs to find their problems in doing business here.
Though the current economic outlook is grim, many businesses are preparing for investment in anticipation of business recovery two to three years later. Thus taking advantage of Free Economy Zone, industrial complexes in Pohang and Gumi and rich experience in inviting foreign businesses, Gyeongsangbuk-do is striving to find a new breakthrough for its economy with the successful achievement of its Plus 10 Trillion Won Investment Strategy.
Q: With the streamlining of the four major rivers, what are the implementation projects for the Nakdong River and their anticipated effects
A: The Nakdong River is the birthplace of Yongnam culture and for 13 million Yongname people it is the place of their livelihood. However, going through the industrial age, only sedimentary deposits and water pollution have been accumulated along the Nakdong River and in the past 10 years; flood damage alone amounted to 7 trillion won and reconstruction projects cost 11 trillion won. Therefore, immediately after taking over the post of governor, I started working on the Nakdong River project, that is, to build a new economic and cultural sphere along the 521 kilometer-long Nakdong River with creation of new jobs to provide livelihoods for the residents.
The waterway improvement project for the four major rivers, including Nakdong River, is an exemplary case of a provincial government-recommended project adopted by the central government as a national project. This is a multi-purpose project dealing with floods, water shortages, water contamination, air pollution and global warming, thus restoring the ecological environment. In other words, this is a Korean version of the New Deal Policy to tide over the current global monetary crisis.
The waterway project is not simply a public engineering work. Rather, it is a multipurpose economic development project as well, revitalizing local economic activities.
Of the 521 kilometer-long Nakdong River, Gyeongsangbuk-do accounts for 282 kilometers with wide riverside areas. Therefore, the governors' meetings persistently called on the central government for immediate launching of the waterway project for the four major rivers. Finally on December 29, 2008 with the presence of the Prime Minister, other ranking government officials, legislative members and local residents, the launching of the waterway improvement project was undertaken at the riverside of the Nakdong River in Andong City, Gyeongsangbuk-do to restore the ecological environment.
Following the historical groundbreaking in Gyeongsangbuk-do, the project will be pursued with a historic mission to successfully complete the waterway improvement project. In March, the improvement project for the waterway environment along the Gumi and Sangju areas is scheduled to start.
The spreading effect from this project is two-fold. Firstly, in terms of the real economy, it will contribute to increasing job opportunities, thus revitalizing local economic performance. With 4 trillion won investment in the coming 4 years, it is expected to create 69,000 jobs and induce industrial production worth more than 7 trillion won. The provincial government calls on local construction companies to take part in more than 50% of the waterway project. Secondly, in terms of balanced development of Geongsangbuk-do, it will convert the current Nakdong River area into a new site of development for province when the ecological tourism in the three culture spheres along the Nakdong River becomes full-fledged along with the moving of the provincial headquarters to a new place. As a major beneficiary from the Nakdong River waterway project, Gyeongsangbuk-do is doing its utmost to secure 7.6 trillion won for the Nakdong River project out of the total 13.9 trillion won budget for the four major river projects.Q: Gyeongsangbuk-do is blessed with rich tourism resources. What are its active promotional blueprints for tourism
A: The tourism industry is often called the Blue Ocean for growth and also a money-making industry. Of all provinces in the Republic of Korea, Gyeonsangbuk-do is the largest in size and its tourism resources account for 20% of its resources. Major sightseeing areas include the Baekdudakan Range, eastern coastal areas, Ullung and Dokdo islands in the East Sea. It is also a historic Mecca for Buddhism, Confucianism and Gaya culture and is proud of the three historic cultures of Korea. Especially regarding old-style traditional Korean houses, 40% of the traditional Korean homes are still well preserved in Gyeongsangbuk-do.
As a result, there were 79 million visitors to private lodging houses in 2007, the figure increased to 86 million in 2008. The target number for 2009 is 100 million with the development of commercial items, taking advantage of rich heritage of cultural resources.
Thus, under the joint marketing strategy between Daegu and Busan, Gyeongsangbuk-do plans to do its best for the Japanese tourists on the occasion of the 2011 World Field-and-Track Meet in Daegu so that they would return with fond memories of Gyeongbuk sightseeing.