Saemangeum to Be Reborn as the Stronghold of Global Business

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Monday, March 29th, 2010
A bird eye view of the Saemangeum Gunsan Free Economic Zone

A bird eye view of the Saemangeum Gunsan Free Economic Zone

The Saemangeum Gunsan Free Economic Zone (SGFEZ) Authority plans to go all-out to develop Saemangeum into the world's strongest green growth base and stronghold of international business, a top official of the authority said. "Saemangeum is the nation's biggest project to create a total space of 401 square kilometers, which is equivalent to two-thirds of Seoul, and the world's biggest tide embankment," said Lee Choon-hee, commissioner of SGFEZ Authority.

In an interview with Korea IT Times, he said, "To achieve US$40,000 in per capita national income, the country has to create more space for new growth engines. The Saemangeum project will help the nation achieve the target by offering valuable land."

Introduction of Foreign Capital

In June 2009, SGFEZ concluded an investment agreement with S&C of Saudi Arabia to build a top-class hotel. The Saudi Arabian company plans to start construction of the hotel in the first half of this year. SGFEZ also signed a US$4.4 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) with three U.S. companies in December of 2009. "Along with this, it concluded a US$4 billion MOU with domestic and foreign large companies in December 2009 to develop Saemangeum into an Eco-polis of low carbon and green growth," Lee said.

Asked about the future plan to attract foreign investment, he said, "SGFEZ will actively publicize that Saemangeum will be one of the most desirable places in the world for parts & materials, automobile, shipbuilding, new & renewable energy, ocean tourism and leisure industries. In particular, I will introduce such merits of Saemanguem as state-owned vast land, cheap land prices, geographical strong points adjacent to airport and port," said Lee, who earned a Ph.D. from Hanyang University, Graduate School of Urban Design.

Related to this, SGFEZ will hold an explanatory meeting to attract foreign investment at the end of April in Beijing, China, jointly with KOTRA. At the end of May, it also has a plan to hold a joint explanatory meeting to attract foreign investment with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy in Shanghai, he explained. "At the same time, we will attract global educational and medical service institutions to Saemangeum to create favorable climate for foreign residents," he said.

Summary of SGFEZ

A plan for the Saemangeum Gunsan Free Economic Zone

A plan for the Saemangeum Gunsan Free Economic Zone

Under the vision of "Hub of Biz Frontier in East Asia," the Saemangeum development project has been carried out with two large goals of creating future-oriented new industry and tourism leisure industry, the commissioner said. The authority will spend a total of KRW 5.1 trillion to create four districts, which are the Saemangeum district, the Gogunsan Gundo international ocean tourism estate, the Gunjang state-run industrial estate and the Gunsan City rear district during the 2008-2020 period.

Korea launched the SGFEZ Authority in August 2008 to oversee the construction of the SGFEZ and develop administrative services for the domestic and overseas businesses to be housed there. One of key reasons for establishing a free economic zone in the southwestern coast is closely associated with Korea's urgent need to compete with China, one of the world's fastest growing economies.

The following is an interview with Lee Choon-hee, commissioner of SGFEZ Authority.

Lee Choon-hee, commissioner of SGFEZ Authority

Lee Choon-hee, Commissioner of SGFEZ Authority

Q: Would you introduce the development situation of the Saemangeum industrial district?

A: As of March 31 this year, we finished to reclaim 1.94 million square meters of land in the district, showing a progress rate of 77 percent. We already established a plan to create the Mecca of low carbon and green growth through operation of the MP consultation committee consisting of experts from city planning, transportation and environment sectors.To promote quality of citizens' life and enhance value of city brand, we will create more space for culture and leisure, while building 20 parks and two plazas for residents.  Along with this, we will develop over 20 percent of the total space into green track of land to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, said Lee who graduated from a Korea University.

Q: Would you comment on the project to create the Saemangeum tourism district?

A: Under the development concept of the "place where people have various experiences in nature," we plan to develop the tourism district into a space for the ecological heart. The district will be divided into three zones: green heart, red heart and blue heart, which will offer ecological function, commerce-oriented function and ocean experience function, respectively. Meanwhile, a golf course, a theme park, hotels, condominiums and a convention center will be built in the Saemangeum tourism district.

Q: You said there are many merits of SGFEZ. Would you introduce some strong points?

A: Geographically, it is located in the center of the pan-Yellow Sea bloc linking the world's giant markets, including China, Japan and Russia. There are 43 big cities with population of over one million within less than two-hour flight from the economic zone. One of the biggest advantages of the free economic zone is its spacious and affordable land, providing a long-term lease up to 100 years to domestic and foreign companies. As far as I know, no other free economic zones in the country offer such extensive and generous lease terms.

In particular, SGFEZ has a new development concept of creating advanced new industrial estate based on low carbon and green growth, and the tourism leisure industrial estate. It is an industrial district centering on production and research & development. At the same time, it serves as an ocean tourism district that combines nature, ecology, experience and culture. Most of the other free economic zones are logistics-oriented zones centering on harbor.