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Mungyeong to develop eco-friendly agriculture and tourism industriesInterview with mayor Ko Yun-hwan of Mungyeong City

As an urban-rural complex mid-sized city, Mungyeong is actively transforming its major industry from agriculture into the sixth industry. Leveraging its remarkable achievements and development, the City government recently held Mungyeong Traditional Tea Bowl Festival and will host the International Military Sports Council (CISM) World Games in coming October. And Mungyeong Cultural Institute held the ceremony of archiving documented Arirang lyrics at a museum in the City. The Korea Post recently interviewed Mayor Ko Yun-hwan of Mungyeong City. Excerpts are as follows.-Ed.

Question: What are the urban environment and competitiveness of Mungyeong City?
Answer: As an urban-rural complex mid-sized city, Mungyeong City is transforming its major industry from agriculture into the sixth industry by combining eco-friendly agriculture, natural conditions and tourism industry based on its gifted natural resources and historical heritages.

Geographically, the City is located in northwestern region of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. It shares a border with two counties of the same province, Yecheon-gun to the east and Sangju-gun to the south, and two counties and two cities of Chungcheongbuk-do Province, such as Goesan-gun to the west, Danyang-gun, Jecheon City and Chungju City to the north. Surrounded by high mountains in arch shape, the City is a basin whose climate is affected by orographic effect. Connected with the Jungbu Naeryuk (central inland) Expressway and a high way between Sangju and Cheongju as well as the Jungbu Naeryuk Rapid-transit Railway set to be completed in 2021, the City is changing to a new center of transportation, recovering its fame as the key area of transportation during the Joseon Dynasty. For its economic growth and increase in income of citizens, the City government is actively capitalizing on its natural environment by building a number of industrial complexes, resorts, education and training facilities and sets of TV dramas.

Q: Do you have plans of creating new jobs?
A: As part of its effort to create quality jobs, the City government is currently constructing the second Shingi Industrial Complex in a total area of 439,686 square meters investing a budget of 58 billion won (approx. US$49 million) with the goal of attracting multiple blue-chip companies. And to increase new jobs, the City authority is implementing a number of job creation programs, including the program of creating jobs tailored for small and mid-sized businesses, program of supporting moved-in companies, program of generating jobs in public sector for less privileged people, and program of supporting start-ups of young CEOs. It already arranged jobs for more than 160 workers in regional communities and labor-intensive public works in recent months. In recognition of these efforts, the City government was selected as the best organization in creating new jobs in 2015 among cities and counties in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province for the second consecutive year.

Q: I understand you are hosting the International Military Sports Council (CISM) World Games. How do you prepare for the upcoming 6th CISM World Games Mungyeong Korea 2015?
A: Systematic preparations for the upcoming CISM World Games are under way on schedule. We have completed projects of remodeling major sports facilities, including the indoor gymnasium and Citizens’ Stadium, and we are constructing access roads to the Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps camp and athletes’ quarters with the goal of completing them by the end of August. With financial support of the provincial government of Gyeongsangbuk-do and the 6th Military World Games Mungyeong Korea 2015 Organizing Committee, the City authority is pushing forward environment improvement projects around military athletic corps camp, athletes’ quarters and their moving routes. Athletes’ quarters are dispersed into Mungyeong City, Goesan County and Yeongcheon City, mainly using military facilities and caravans in these regions. Besides these quarters, the City government is also building various convenience facilities such as media centers, restaurants, beauty parlors, post offices, banks, medical service centers. For convenience of foreign athletes and visitors, it is rearranging traffic signs, menu boards and information booklets. The CISM World Games, which has been held in every four years since 1995 to promote friendship among the world’s military personnel, is scheduled to be held for 10 days from October 2 to October 11 this year with participation of 8,700 athletes from 110 countries.

Q: Would you introduce your tourism promotion policy and plan of invigorating regional economy?
A: To cope with prospective era of 6 million tourists and relocation of the provincial government building, the City government is promoting the image of ‘touristic Mungyeong’ by developing unique tourism products, including new attractions, foods and entertainments, and by building tourism infrastructure. Particularly, it will concentrate efforts on publicizing Mungyeong’s brand as a city of culture and tourism in this year, leveraging the occasion of the CISM World Games Mungyeong Korea 2015. Located in mountainous region in southeast of Korea, Mungyeong played the role of a main gateway for people living in southeastern part of Korea for traveling to the capital city of Seoul (formerly called Hanyang) in ancient days up until modern roads were constructed across the country. In those days, they had to pass the Mungyeong Saejae, the highest and toughest hill in the country, to travel to northern regions or the capital city. Saejae means the hill is so high that even birds find it difficult to pass over. So, it had long been regarded an important region for social, cultural, and economic distribution as well as for military strategy. The Saejae hill is high and steep, but it is so beautiful that it was selected as the top tourism attraction among 100 attractions in the country. The City also boasts a number of tangible and intangible cultural heritages, including traditional tea bowls and Mungyeong Saejae Arirang, a typical lyric folk song of Korea.

In an effort to invigorate regional economy by preserving and transforming these beautiful natural environment and traditional culture into tourism resources, the City government has been carrying forward a variety of projects. It is constructing a green culture belt, a recuperation complex and a starlight-watching village. And it has been hosting the Mungyeong Traditional Tea Bowl Festival for many years. Having been selected as the best festival for the fourth consecutive year by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, it will further upgrade the event as a representative festival of Korea next year.
The City authority will also develop Mungyeong Saejae as a sustainable tourism attraction and sports by building a story-based cultural and ecosystemic road and the Goryeo Village where visitors can experience the culture of ancient Goryeo Dynasty while enjoying natural hot springs.

Q: What are other programs and plans for boosting the regional economy and promoting culture?
A: To revive the economy that had declined after closure of coal mines, the City government is regenerating downtown districts by building a number of public and cultural facilities, including a comprehensive baby care center, youth welfare center, gymnasium dedicated to disabled people, and a culture and welfare center as well as renovation of a public library. It is also remodeling local markets, expanding parking lots around markets, burying electric wires in downtown districts, restoring ecosystemic streams and remodeling the culture and arts center. In addition, it will establish the Arirang cultural center to operate a variety of Arirang-related programs with the goal of developing itself as the hub of Arirang folk songs based on the Mungyeong Saejae Arirang. We expect that a large number of quality jobs will be created when construction of the second industrial complex is completed and green culture win-win belt program is implemented.

Q: What is your long-range vision for development of the City?
A: As the mayor, I am committed to regenerating downtown districts of the urban-rural complex city and balanced development of rural communities and regions with the goal of building an exemplary mid-sized city with a population to 100,000 by encouraging people in other cities to turn to farming in this city. To achieve this goal, we will improve baby caring and education environment while providing other benefits, creating new quality jobs and enhancing sense of citizenship. We will also provide unreserved administrative support for business and citizens’ activities through close communication with them.

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Meanwhile the City government has been reestablishing the history of Arirang folk songs since 2012, and it concluded an agreement with the Korean Society of Calligraphic Arts in 2013 to join hands in collecting different lyrics of Arirang and creating calligraphic works based on lyrics of the folk song. As part of the agreement, the two organizations collected a total of over 25,000 different lyrics of Arirang in Korea and communities of Korean residents abroad. Of these, a screening committee selected 10,068 different refined lyrics of Arirang. Arirang has been widely sung by all Korean people at home and abroad alike for decades, but with different lyrics by regions and communities. In order to preserve these lyrics in the form of document, 120 prominent calligraphers beautifully calligraphed 10,068 different lyrics on traditional Korean papers for 2 years, creating visual cultural heritage. And then, they were edited and published as a collection in 5 volumes. This is the unique ‘complete collection of Arirang lyrics’ that has precious cultural value. On September 5, 2015, the Mungyeong Cultural Institute moved these collections from Insa-dong, Seoul to the Museum of Old Roads in Mungyeong, the home of modern Arirang. At the ceremony of moving the collection of Arirang lyrics, the City government declared Mungyeong as the city of Arirang. With a plan of establishing the National Arirang Museum, the City authority will publish 1,000 sets of the collection of calligraphic works as well as a book of these lyrics for distribution.

Mayor Ko Yun-hwan of Mungyeong City said, “As Korean people created the Tripitaka Koreana in their wish for defending against Mongolian invasions during the Goryeo Dynasty, now we completed the complete collection of Arirang lyrics with a wish for unification of Korea. I expect Arirang will develop and spread around the world by expanding from Mungyeong into Manchuria passing over Mt. Baekdu and into the Pacific passing over Mt. Jiri”.

In the mean time, in recognition of cultural value of the typical folk song of Korea, Arirang was registered on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2012.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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