By Feature Editor Kim Hyung-dae
“Gochang, the first Capital of the Korean Peninsula in agriculture, life and culture, is an object of envy of local governments by attracting up-and-coming companies despite the global economic downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak. Of note, inducement of promising food firms will revitalize the local agricultural and livestock sectors. Expectations are growing for the employment outlook as well as the additional relocation of related companies such as those involved in research and development of new products, distribution and processing. Gochang County in North Jeolla Province has signed investment agreements worth 89 billion won with three food processing firms. The following is a summary of an interview with Gochang County Mayor Yoo Key-sang.
Question: First of all, would like to assess your management of Gochang County as you marked two years in office?
Answer: I would like to emphasize that we have worked hard to improvement of lives of residents, notably farmers. Of note, the farmers' allowance, which was initiated by Gochang County, has been expanded to all parts of North Jeolla Province.
In 2019, Gochang County revised the ordinance to establish an institutional framework for the preservation of rural communities and the creation of sustainable farming environments. Of note, 285,000 won was paid as gift certificates to each farming household (totaling 1,162 farms) that had their address in the county for more than two years.
This move reflects the value and philosophy of the Gochang County administration which remains committed to preserving the agricultural sector for farmers who work hard to protect native seeds in Gochang. The farmers' allowance, which was started by Gochang County, was expanded to the entire North Jeolla Province this year.
Q: It is understood that Gochang was declared the first “Vinegar Culture City” in Korea. What is the significance of this move?
A: On November 1, 2019, Gochang County was declared a "Vinegar Culture City" for the first time in Korea for the promotion of vinegar, which has the largest market and the highest growth potential among fermented foods. The county will seek to develop a “holy land for vinegar” where all the county residents know how to make vinegar and drink it. We hope that our vinegar culture will land a thousand years. More than 160 people are participating in the Vinegar Academy where they can learn the process of vinegar fermentation, and vinegar-fermented beverages are already popular in cafes around Gochang.
Q: Could you identify Gochang’s special farm products and their unified brand “High Gochang”?
A: This year, Gochang's special agricultural products (watermelon, melon and rice) are being marketed nationwide under the brand name of "High Gochang." It is a top-notch brand that represents high-quality foods of the first capital of the Korean Peninsula in terms of status, price, reliability and sugar content.
As many as three out of nine companies across the country selected as up-and-coming companies for win-win cooperation between agriculture and businesses hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs have implemented collaboration projects with Gochang County. It included Sangha Farm, Kooksoondang Gochang Myeongju, and Hite Jinro Beverage Black Barley. In addition, CJ Freshway, which helped increase farm income by contract cultivation of Gochang rice, was awarded the grand prize at the Agricultural-Business Win-Win Cooperation Competition.
Gochang's food firms have been able to increase their added value by securing a stable supply of raw materials, and increased purchases of domestic farm products have become a model case for farmers to expand their sales channels and raise their revenues.
Gochang County will be focused on producing organic, eco-friendly, and advanced agricultural products by maximizing agricultural technology. The county will continue to develop its own brands so that farmers can sell their hard-earned high-quality crops for a reasonable price.
Q: It is understood that the county’s agricultural machinery delivery service has become popular among farmers of late.
A: Farmers' inconveniences, notably safety accidents, have been greatly reduced as Gochang County has delivered tractors and other agricultural machinery safely to the front of the farmers’ village. When farmers visit the farm machine rental office two days earlier or reserve the necessary farming machines by phone, experts deliver them to the village hall using transportation vehicles. Gochang County has 570 agricultural machines of 65 types in its two agricultural machine rental businesses. Several more agricultural machinery rental businesses will be opened also in late September.
Q: Lately, Gochang County has signed an investment agreement worth 89 billion won with three food processing firms. Please explain in detail.
A: Gochang County has signed an investment agreement worth 89 billion won with three food processing companies -- Gogo Holdings, Taesong and Oncook Agricultural Corporation. These firms will invest in the Gochang General Industrial Complex and Bokbunja Agricultural Complex.
The agreement is expected to promote the Gochang agricultural industry through the procurement of raw materials, as well as contributing to creation of jobs.
Gogo Holdings, which has confirmed its investment in the Gochang General Industrial Complex, is a special purpose corporation, which embraces Urban Farming Life, Yonsei Well-being Life, farming firm Han Farm, Koryo Life C&F and Oriental Medicine Bio. The company plans to invest 30 billion won and hire 312 people to produce a range of health functional foods, including food additives, red ginseng and Dongchung Hacho, liquid using local agricultural products, and powders, as well as grain processed foods such as dried rice and cup rice.
What is more, Taesong and Oncook have also confirmed their investments in Bokbunja Agricultural Cluster, located in Yongsan-ri, Buan-myeon. Taesong is a subsidiary of Umji Food, which moved into Bokbunja Agricultural Industrial Cluster in 2018, and plans to invest 34 billion won and hire 270 people to produce fried rice, nutritious rice and other processed cereal products.
Oncook is a subsidiary of the Chambada English Union Corporation, a local company in Gochang, and has been operating a new plant in Bokbunja Agricultural Industrial Complex since October last year. The company plans to invest 25 billion won and hire 50 people to produce home meal replacement(HMR) such as fried rice, hot dogs, and galbitang.
Goyang County will continue efforts to attract agricultural life food firms that can be linked to agricultural and livestock products in Gochang, a main supplier of abundant food resources, in order to create decent jobs and revive the regional economy.
The strengthening cooperative ties between Gochang County, the capital of agricultural life, and major food companies in Korea is drawing attention as a new value-added model for the Korean agri-food industry. Gochang County has mountains, fields, seas, rivers, and mudflats, making it easy to procure fresh raw materials. In addition, special crops such as watermelons, bokbunja, melons, sweet potatoes, and peanuts, which cannot be easily produced in other cities and counties, are being cultivated, making them a stable test bed for food companies wanting to show "special flavors." In addition, there are three highway ICs which are rare in the county level, making it easy to distribute its farm products.
Other notable achievements, as revealed by Gochang Mayor Yoo in his interview with the Korea Post, are as follows:
Seonunsa Temple Manseru in Gochang has been designated as treasure No. 2065, a state-designated cultural asset.
Manseru in Seonunsa Temple is the largest temple pavilion in Korea, with nine bays in front. In the late Joseon Dynasty, the Buddhist temple was an excellent example of the proper transformation of buildings in response to the trends and functions of the times. It has been well preserved as a building full of originality after overcoming hardships in acquiring materials at that time.
We will actively carry out academic surveys and conferences in order to elevate the status of province-designated cultural assets such as Gochang Armed Donghak Peasant Revolution Base. Efforts will also be exerted to apply for designation of cultural assets in North Jeolla Province for Sanggeum Dolmens and Namdang Hoemaengdan (Namdang Hill Foundation)
Gochang County is seeking to create more than 2,000 jobs
Our aim is to attract investment in the General Industrial Complex and create more than 2,000 jobs. In order to create jobs for the county residents, Gochang County has been pushing to build a general industrial complex in Gosu-myeon since 2008. The construction was originally scheduled for completion in 2014, but due to differences between the construction company and the county administration over the landfill volume, only the grass grew thick, leaving the county residents disappointed. As a result, the normalization of the Gochang General Industrial Complex was picked as the first task of the local government, and legal action was pursued while holding active consultation with the construction company.
With the dispute being settled at the end of 2019, the General Industrial Complex managed to attract businesses. In May, Gochang-gun signed an investment agreement worth 150 billion won with Dongwoo Farm to Table, a chicken meat industry. Of note, the industrial cluster is expected to create 650 jobs.
In August, Geumhae Industrial, a building material production company, began producing construction materials. In addition, the Gochang General Industrial Complex is building a culture and sport center with investment of 10 billion won for the use of entrepreneurs, workers and local residents, and LH Rental Apartments will be built next year
Additional disaster relief funds are provided to the families who support parents and multi-child household.
Gochang County has paid disaster support funds with “Gochang Love Gift Certificates” to help overcome the regional economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. As of March 29, 2020, 55,190 people from 28,836 households with addresses in Gochang-gun were included, and about 5.749 billion won were paid.
Of note, as Gochang County, which seeks to become an ideal place for raising children, paid an additional 200,000 won to the families who support parents and multi-child families, reflecting a distinctive regional culture in disaster relief fund provisions. Meanwhile, 43 officials of Grade 5 and above of Gochang County have donated the government disaster support fund to the Gochang Scholarship Foundation.
Coronavirus 19 Gochang Economy Revitalization TF
Gochang-gun is operating a TF to revive the Gochang economy to minimize damage to the local economy caused by the prolonged coronavirus outbreak. The TF has carried out 27 emergency economic projects (8.93 billion won) over the past two months.
The total includes support for credit guarantee fees for companies affected by the coronavirus (100 million won), support for management stabilization funds for companies (698 million won), reduction of water and sewage fees for small businesses (40 million won), support for High Gochang card approval fees (100 million won) and support for delivery app fees for small businesses (25 million won). Gochang County will continue efforts to support projects for small businesses that are suffering from Coronavirus 19 and will help revitalize the local economy.
Creating Gochang Biosphere Reserve
In the vast Salt Field (650,000 pyeong owned formerly by Samyangsa Company) in Simwon-myeon Gochang-gun, the county is working for creation of a Gochang Biosphere Reserve, an eco-experience learning center.
The mudflat World Heritage Center is scheduled for completion by 2024 as the first stage, and a salivary botanical garden, a natural ecology garden and the salt-related sixth industrialization complex will be built as the second stage. After that, an ecological pars and a biological resources center will be built sequentially.
Gochang County has held consultations with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and North Jeolla Province from 2018 and reflected its plans in the comprehensive national territory development plan (2020-2040). The county is seeking to protect the Gochang mudflats through the project, and preserve the ecosystem to maintain sustainable biodiversity.
“Attidabang,” a cafe run by the severely disabled
Gochang County opened "Attidabang" run by people with severe disabilities in the lobby of the county office.
"Attidabang" means a place where all the residents of Gochang become friends. The county was selected for the Korea Disabled People's Development Institute's project to support job creation for the severely disabled and purchased and installed interior and cafe products with 70 million won. In August, a private company was selected to run the café for the county office. Attidabang, which employs and operates severely disabled people, has one manager and four baristas. Profits from cafe operations will be used for job creation and welfare-related projects for the disabled.