The following are excerpts from an interview with Mayor Kim Seong-je of the Uiwang City recently conducted by The Korea Post media for publication.—Ed.
Question: Would you first introduce Uiwang City in brief?
Answer: To begin with, I want to extend my warm New Year greetings to all readers of The Korea Post media. Neighboring with 7 cities including Gwacheon, Anyang, Gunpo and Suwon, Uiwang City has a population of approximately 160,000 and an area of 54 square kilometers. It is connected with several convenient expressways, including Seoul Ring Expressway, Yeongdong Expressway and Gwacheon-Bongdam High-speed Road. It has 6 high mountains including Bakwunsan and Cheoggye mountains with 2 beautiful lakes such as Wangsong Lake and Baekun Lake. As it has built robust social security network, it is recognized as the safest city in the Seoul metropolitan region, and it was recently selected as the second safest city in the country by the central government next to Dalseong County of Daegu. Its brand image and competitiveness are significantly enhanced as it has made dramatic progress in urban development, education and welfare segments.
Q: As the 6th elected mayor, your tenure now has about a half year to go, after having accomplished numerous achievements during past years. What are major achievements?
A: It has already been 3 years and 5 months since I inaugurated as the 6th elected mayor. Looking back, the City has seen many achievements in building a premium city in overall areas, including urban development, education, welfare and civil services segments. To name a few of them, I may select projects of rail bike that circulates the Wangsong Lake and of developing a housing complex in the Baekun valley near Baekun Lake. Despite difficulties due to opposition from environmental movement groups during its development phase, the rail bike circulating the Wangsong Lake is now established as one of typical tourist attractions in the metropolitan region. After undergoing years-long difficulties and setbacks, the project of developing housing complex in the Baekun valley was successfully completed by selling all houses by last year. Among others, these two projects, I believe, contributed to further enhancing awareness and brand value of the City.
Q: Uiwang City is represented by the rail bike. How the City emerged as the best tourism destination in the metropolitan region in this short period of time?
A: Since it launched operation in April 2016, the rail bike gained popularity as a new tourist attraction in the metropolitan area in 20 months. It attracted around 420,000 tourists thus far, including groups from Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia. In October last year, it was named as one of ’10 most promising tourist destinations in Gyeonggi-do Province’, and received the ‘Top Brand Award of the Year’ selected by consumers. With convenient access and unique circulation of a lake, the rail bike allows tourists to view a number of migratory birds, such as herons and mallards. While circulating the lake, visitors can enjoy exciting facilities, including an ecological marsh, lotus fields, nature-learning park, museum of ecology of birds, and railroad museum. In addition, it operates a beautiful music fountain near platform of the rail bike, and colorful lights around the Wangsong Lake. Starting in March this year, the City government plans to install 350 meter-long zip lines and a large scale camping ground around the Lake.
Q: What are progresses in large scale development projects including the Baekun valley development project?
A: With gifted natural environment positioned in central part of the metropolitan region, the City is constructing a housing complex in an area of around 955,000 square meters aiming to complete the project by the end of this year. Out of a total of 4,100 houses, about 3,500 houses were already sold as of the end of last year. With the goal of opening it by early 2019, Lotte Uiwang Baekun Shopping Mall is now under construction near the housing complex. It will also build a hotel, medical complex and a community center installed with a swimming pool and fitness club. Besides, construction companies are developing several other housing complexes, including Jangan District (1,800 houses), Poil District (1,800 houses, Gocheon-dong Happy Town (4,400 houses), and Chopyeong-dong New Stay (3,100 houses). The City authority also began last year construction of the Uiwang Techno Park in Bugok-dong in area of 158,700square meters as the first industrial complex in the City.
At present, 90% of industrial complex in the techno-park was sold, and it is expected to position as a new growth engine in southern part of the metropolitan area because companies with advanced technologies and promising companies with scarcity value will migrate into the complex. When over 200 industrial companies, logistic center and knowledge-based industry center begin operation in the complex, it is anticipated to generate 2,000 new jobs, while contributing KRW330 billion(approx. $308.4 million) to the regional economy, including production inducement effect of KRW250 billion(approx.$233.6 million) and value added inducement of KRW80 billion(approx. $74.76 million).
Q: I understand educational competition of the City rose to the top since your inauguration. What educational policies do you implement?
A: Since my inauguration as the 5th mayor in 2010, the City government has concentrated support on education-related programs in cooperation with local Office of Education, such as improvement of educational environment and operation of specialization programs. It supports over KRW6 billion (approx. $5.6 million) of educational expenses to schools annually. Financial supports are used for building gymnasiums, dormitories and lawn soccer fields as well as for operating art, music and physical education activities. Thanks to such strong support, academic achievements of students are much improved. In academic performance and learning improvement assessment of middle school students, the City topped in the Gyeonggi-do Province for 4th consecutive year in 2016. In addition, all high schools in the City are operating dormitories, also contributing to improving academic performance of students.