On the occasion of the 21st Pyeongtaek Citizens’ Day, The Korea Post had an exclusive interview with Mayor Kong Jae-kwang of the City. At this interview, Mayor Kong expressed his ambitious vision for building Pyeongtaek as the most attractive and dynamic city in Korea. He said this year is especially important as new growth engines of the City are beginning to gain fruits after years-long efforts. “While the City has a number of advantages for growth such as inducements of high-tech enterprises and development of large-scale industrial complexes, it did not have a chance to devise long-term development plan that can shape future and project vision of the City in 5 to 10 years to come. We are currently formulating the ‘2040 Long-term Comprehensive Development Plan of Pyeongtaek’ to develop items that can progressively characterize the City and systematically and comprehensively embrace diverse development programs,” said Mayor Kong. Excerpts from the interview follow --Ed.
Question: I understand the relocation of the U.S. military bases into Pyeongtaek is the most important task of the city. What are progresses in their construction works and efforts of the City government?
Answer: Construction works of the U.S. military buildings and facilities are progressing as planned. To concentrate these facilities from other parts of the country, organizations are constructing 513 buildings and facilities in a total area of 14.67 million square meters. As of the end of April 2016, 88% of the entire buildings and facilities are completed, and U.S. military bases will begin to move in late this year. By 2018, about 42,000 servicepersons, their families and civilian personnel are expected to move into the City. The military railroad in the K-6 base was launched in February this year, and support facilities such as hospitals, banks and a multipurpose stadium are now under construction. The project of relocating the U.S. military bases is not simply implementation of planned projects, but it means a change and the largest task of the City. Therefore, the City government formed a task force in 2014 to build settlement environment and infrastructure in support of relocation of these military facilities. The task force is consisted of 10 teams to deal with 18 essential supporting programs.
To reduce damages of aircraft noise on nearby residents, the City authority is installing noise barriers around the U.S. military airport on phased basis. In order to provide one-stop service for U.S. military personnel-related damages, we are also discussing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to install its counseling center in the City that will process civil complaints, legal counseling, and processing of compensation procedures. The center is expected to be installed in August this year. Since over 12,000 officers and soldiers are currently stationing in two U.S. military camps in the City and more than 40,000 servicepersons are expected to be added in 2018, the municipal government is operating Korea-U.S. friendship programs, including friendship festival, Korean languages classes, city tour, Korean culture experience, traditional Korean food cooking classes, home stay and tour of U.S. military camps by citizens. When the U.S. military bases relocation scheme is completed in 2018, the City is expected to gain economic inductive effect of about 18 trillion won (approx. US$15.25 billion) and employment inductive effect of approximately 110,000 workers.
Q: Samsung Electronics is constructing its semiconductor plant in this City. What are its impacts on the regional economy and what supports do you provide for it?
A: Samsung Electronics is currently constructing a large scale semiconductor plant in total area of 2.89 million square meters in the Godeok International New Town in Pyeongtaek, comparable to combined space of its semiconductor plants in Giheung and Hwaseong (3 million square meters), by investing the world’s largest amount of 15.6 trillion won (approx. US$13.2 billion). The Samsung semiconductor complex in Godeok, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016, is expected to play a pivotal role in its semiconductor cluster by connecting with IT R&D centers in Giheung, Hwaseong and Suwon, and display manufacturing plants in Cheonan and Asan. The construction and operation of Samsung’s new semiconductor lines in Godeok is anticipated to make significant contribution to both regional and national economy. Specifically, the new semiconductor lines are expected to generate production inductive effect of about 41 trillion won (approx. US$34.7 billion) with direct investment of 15.6 trillion won (approx. US$13.2 billion) and sales of 20 trillion won (approx. US$16.9 billion) (2017~2020), creating about 150,000 new jobs. Of course, the City government is providing administrative support to the company for successful construction and operation of the new plant.
Q: Pyeongtaek Port celebrates 30th anniversary of its opening as a trading port. What efforts are you exerting to invigorate the port?
A: Starting with entrance of an LNG carrier in 1986, Pyeongtaek Port has continued rapid growth and remarkable development as a trading port. It achieved a phenomenal growth from a small port of fishing ships, mainly those of catching blue crabs, to an international port that can treat total cargo traffic of over 100 million tons. Since it started handling vehicles in July 2000, it achieved the record of treating 10 million vehicles in accumulation as of March this year. In 2015 alone, it handled 1.357 million vehicles, exported and imported, ranking first in treating vehicles among ports in Korea for the fifth consecutive year. In addition to vehicles, the port treated 106.77 million tons of other cargoes as of the end of 2014. While other major ports in the country including Busan Port, Gwangyang Port and Incheon Port made fast growth with policy support of the central government, Pyeongtaek Port was expanded thanks to daring investments by private companies since the middle of 2000. With expansion of vehicle wharf and that for containers, cargo traffic rapidly grew. Comparing to annual traffic growth rate of 0.76% at all ports in the country on average, that at Pyeongtaek Port grew by 8.4% annually, attracting attention from the world. Among 31 trading ports in Korea, it took fifth place in handling overall cargoes, fourth place in treating containers, and top place in treating vehicles for the fifth consecutive year.
Focused on ‘establishing identity of Pyeongtaek Port’, the City government will implement a variety of programs of celebrating 30th anniversary of the Port, including photo exhibition, regional forum, international seminar, and production of a documentary video. Programs and events of celebrating the anniversary will highlight background of its growth into a central logistic port in the pan-Yellow Sea region and present direction of sustainable development of the Port in the future. Since the sea route connecting to Ningcheng, China was first opened in 2001, sea routes between Pyeongtaek and China increased to 5, including Weihai, Rizhao, Yantai and Lianyun. Over 400,000 merchants and tourists are traveling via these passenger ship routes a year. To supplement insufficient passenger terminal facilities at the Port, the municipal government is actively improving and expanding these facilities. In addition, the City government plans to expand insufficient port support facilities and waterfront space by developing neighboring coastline area and rear complexes.
Q: What are your efforts to create new jobs?
A: One of my election pledges was creation of 100,000 new jobs, including some 72,000 jobs in private sector, 40,000 jobs in public sector and 12,000 jobs in public sector for less privileged people. Of these, we aim to generate over 16,000 new jobs in this year. Specifically, Samsung Electronics is expected to employ a total of 30,000 blue color workers, office workers and researchers when its semiconductor plant in the Godeok International New Town begins operation. And the project of constructing its plants in the second industrial complex in Jinwi, LG Electronics is also expected to employ approximately 10,000 workers, while the project of developing tourism complex around Pyeongtaek Lake will generate some 12,000 new jobs. These new jobs are expected to significantly contribute to employment security of citizens.
While unemployment rate in the City was 2.7% as of the first half of 2015, lower than the average rate of Gyeonggi-do Province (3%) and nationwide rate (3.9%), the City authority continues to augment foundation for employment by pushing forward a variety of programs, including construction of additional industrial complexes, attraction of manufacturers from other regions, job fairs, and regional community employment programs. To invigorate regional economy, it is also providing various supports to traditional markets and small businesses. It resolved difficulties and problems of companies by permitting expansion of plants and expanding and paving roads based on results of discussions with businessmen. Aiming to build a fast-growing new economic and industrial city, the City government will concentrate every effort to invigorate regional economy and create new jobs through close communications and cooperation with the industry.
Q: Do you have anything to add?
A: Lastly, I want to reiterate my commitment to development and takeoff as a most attractive and dynamic new economic and industrial city through communication and harmony with the industrial sector and citizens. To that end, as the mayor, I will attentively listen to the voice of citizens and actively approach to them.