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Namwon, home of chaste woman, Chunhyang, now Korean mecca of cosmeticsInterview with Mayor Lee Hwan-joo of Namwon City

▲Mayor Lee Hwan-joo of the Namwon City

Leveraging clean natural environment and cultural heritages, the City will invigorate regional economy by promoting eco-friendly cosmetics industry and tourism industry as it has been concentrating resources on that direction,” said Mayor Lee Hwan-joo of Namwon City in a recent interview with The Korea Post. Mayor Lee Hwan-joo passed the civil service examination in technology segment. Before being elected as the mayor of Namwon City in 2011, he served as the director general of tourism and construction bureau at Namwon City government, director general of Wansan Borough Office, director of planning office at Jeollabuk-do Province, principal secretary to governor of Jeollabuk-do Province, director general for trade affairs at Korean Trade Mission in Shanghai, and director general for development at Saemangeum-Gunsan Free Economic Zone Administration Agency. Excerpts from the interview are as follows-Ed.

Question: Please explain unique environment and competitiveness of Namwon City.
Answer: Located in western region of Mt. Jiri, Namwon City has vast fertile plain, producing a variety of high quality and tasty agricultural products around the year, such as rice, grape, peach, melon, paprika, potato and lettuce. The City is also a roofless museum with numerous tangible and intangible cultural heritages. In the Unbong Plateau, people of ancient kingdom of Unbong Gaya produced high quality iron for over 1,500 years that contained nickel. It is well known as the home of Dongpyeon-je pansori, a unique traditional folk music in the region, providing high level cultural tourism. Particularly, the beautiful Gwanghallu Pavilion represents essence of traditional garden culture where Lee Doryeong, a son of aristocratic family, and Chunhyang, a daughter of an entertainer, shared lofty love despite wide gap in their status. Besides the Gwanghallu Pavilion, there exist many historical heritages, including a mountain fortress built in Baekje Dynasty, the victory monument of General Lee Seong-gye (founding king of Joseon Dynasty), tombs of Unbong Gaya kingdom leaders, and a 1,000-year old Buddhist temple. As an attractive cultural tourism destination, the City is conveniently connected with two express ways and the KTX railroad.

Q: What is your plan for development of the City?
A: In an effort to invigorate regional economy, I have been concentrating my energy on developing abundant historical and cultural resources since my inauguration in 2011. In order to disperse tourists to other parts of the City from the Gwanghallu Pavilion and the period of Chunhyang Festival, the City has been developing other tourism attractions. It recently opened the Namwon Yechon, a traditional Korean-style house hotel, in downtown. Guests can experience traditional Korean culture and arts while staying at this hotel. It also developed the Yegaram Street, a street of culture and arts, to promote traditional culture and arts, and to provide citizens and tourists with chances of enjoying unique culture and arts, such as performing arts and paintings. To transform eastern region of Mt. Jiri into a four-season forest complex with clean natural environment, we are linking various tourism attractions in the mountain and building a mountain railway as a pilot project.

▲A beauty pageant in Namwon named after Chunhyang, a typical chaste woman in Korea in the past, who kept her faithfulness to her lover in spite of unbearable physical tortures inflicted by the local governor.

Q: Would you further elaborate on your tourism promotion policy?
A: With the goal of building a ‘tourism destination for stay’, the municipal government is pushing forward several major tourism promotion programs. It is developing downtown area, eastern districts of the City to provide tourists with chances of staying, and enjoying and experiencing traditional culture and arts, such as traditional music, paintings and potteries. To help tourists get access to rough Mt. Jiri in icy winter, we are constructing a mountain railway. And we are concentrating efforts on attracting tourists and popularizing traditional culture and arts by offering year-round performance programs. Four traditional markets in the City are also developed to specialize on different local products so that tourists may have deeper interest in regional commodities.

▲Phot shows, from top left, special product melon of Namwon, Namwon apples, Jumong blueberry wine, Hwangjini apricot wine and wooden tea cups. They are five major local products of the city.

Q: How would you invigorate the regional economy?
A: Frankly, the City is poor in secondary industry. In order to overcome this situation, the City government is actively developing the eco-friendly cosmetics cluster in the Third Industrial Complex. Aiming to complete it by 2020, it is also constructing another industrial complex in the eastern region. The eco-friendly cosmetics cluster is an ambitious project of developing eco-friendly cosmetics as a long-term growth engine by attracting cosmetics manufacturers from other parts of the country. As part of this project, it established the Cosmetics Industry Support Center and constructed an eco-friendly CGMP production facility last year. By next year, we plan to establish a cosmetic convergence center to develop bio-beauty substances based on local native plants and herbs, while supporting companies for production, exhibition, distribution and marketing. The City government has concluded MOUs with 7 cosmetics manufacturers and 3 of them already moved in the cluster. We plan to attract an additional dozen companies.

▲Namwon farmers’ band in performance walking on the bridge of the Gwanghallu Pavilion.

Q: Do you have any plan to create new jobs?
A: The City authority is temporarily implementing the employment quota system for graduates of high schools in the City to be preferentially employed by public organizations in it. To boost employment of youths and middle-aged citizens, it is providing various incentives to them. When a large-scale tourism complex is constructed in the City by 2020, more than 500 new jobs are expected to be generated.

▲A ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of formation of sisterhood relationship with a Chinese counterpart city.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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