An interview with Governor Lee Nak-yon of Jeollanam-do Province
By Prof. Song Bang-whan
The southwestern province of Jeollanam-do of the Republic of Korea stunned everyone late last May winning the much-coveted Grand Award for Job Creation offered by the President of the Republic of Korea and presented by the Minister of Employment & Labor on behalf of the President. It was a great surprise to everyone because the province is traditionally an agricultural region.
The Province was evaluated to have created the largest number of new quality-jobs among all the local autonomous governments across the country.
For a province whose traditional mainstream industries are agriculture and fisheries, it is a very rare example to generate the largest number of new jobs, indicating a major transformation in the industrial structure of the province.
In August this year, Hyundai Research Institute published an analysis showing that the economy in several local autonomous governments led by the Jeollanam-do Province began to recover from prolonged recession still inprogress in many parts of the country.
Creation of new jobs has caused a significant increase in population, especially among the young people which merits a great extent of attention.
Since his inauguration as the sixth elected governor of the Province, the government of Jeollanam-do under has been making concerted efforts for creating new jobs and attracting investors.
During the past two years, a total of 309 new enterprises and companies invested a total of 2.4588 trillion won (approx. US$2.195 billion) in the Province, employing over 10,000 workers. As a result, the Province now boasts stabilized and cooperative labor-management relations--winning the top and excellence awards in recognition of its win-win cooperation between labor and management for the eighth consecutive year.
The provincial government is providing various incentives and support measures for the businesses who create new jobs for young people as well as for the senior citizens.
As a result, the total number of people in employment in the manufacturing industry has increased to more than 100,000 persons, representing an increase of 14,000 persons as of the end of July this year compared with the same period of last year.
During this period, employment at the electric, communications, and transportation companies increased by 9,000 persons. In particular, young people are coming home back to the province from the big cities.
The Korea Post recently interviewed Governor Lee Nak-yon of the Province for further details on the exceptional developments in his province. Excerpts from follow:
Question: Wild waves of the so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ are coming. How is your province preparing to successfully meet the challenges and make the best use of them?
Answer: The main pillars of our economy, such as petrochemical industries, steel and shipbuilding, are facing increasingly tough challenges. To successfully meet this situation, we are concentrating our efforts on creating alternatives industries. We believe that the new energy industries are potential alternatives that can guarantee us a good future.
With the advent of the era of energy revolution when fossil fuels are rapidly replaced with new renewable energies and launch of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, countries around the world are more and more obliged to reduce the consumption of energy. The new energy industry that comprises of production of clean energies and technologies of saving and storing electric power is emerging as a future key industry.
In line with these trends, the provincial government is actively promoting new energy industries. As the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), the largest power company in Korea, moved its headquarters to Naju and the central government selected new energy industry as a regional strategic industry, the Province emerged as the most advantageous region for the development of new energy industry in the country. It has the highest solar insolation, and its offshore wind energy resources and tidal current energy account for 60% and 97% of the entire renewable energy resources of the country, respectively.
Q: What are your specific energy industry promotion programs?
A: Leveraging these favorable conditions and chances, the provincial government formulated a ’10-year energy industry development plan aimed attracting 700 energy-related companies and creating 30,000 new jobs by 2025. Under the plan, it aims to foster new energy technology industries, including electric vehicles, energy storage systems (ESS) and motors, build an electric vehicle-based energy city in Naju, turn 50 inhabited islands into carbon-free and self-reliance in energy areas, and to increase self-reliance rate in new renewable energies to up to 30% by 2025 by expanding renewable energy industries in the Province, including solar photovoltaic, wind power and tidal current power generation.
At the same time, in partnership with KEPCO, the Gwangju city government is constructing an energy valley around Naju innovative city, aiming to attract 500 energy-related companies by 2020. As of today, 133 companies decided to invest in this valley. Moreover, the central government and large enterprises are expanding investments in new energy industry. The central government plans to invest 42 trillion won (approx. US$37.5 billion) in this area by 2020, while KEPCO and SK Telecom will invest 500 billion won (approx. US$446 million) by 2020 to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the innovative city. KEPCO also decided to invest 100 billion won (approx. US$89.2 million) to construct ‘KEPCO Energy Valley R&D Center’. To expand the foundation for development of new energy industry, the provincial government will construct the energy industry complex in area of 3.3 million square meters near the innovative city on a phased basis, and eventually combine the complex with the Gwangju Innopolis.
Q: Do you have any plan for developing islands and forests?
A: Since last year, the provincial government is developing 24 attractive islands that have rich culinary, historical and cultural resources by investing over 263 billion won (approx. US$234 million) by 2024. During the past one and a half years, we developed tourism infrastructure in 8 islands of them by improving cafes, indigenous products stores, trails and beaches. Thanks to progress in the development project, visitors to 6 islands of them increased from 270,000 persons in 2014 to 570,000 persons last year. Starting this year, the provincial authority is expanding broadband Internet and free Wi-Fi networks, roads, water supply and drainage systems on these islands. In preparation for construction of the Heuksan Airport by 2020, we are realigning living conditions of residents on Heuksan Island and other neighboring islands.
In an effort to develop the Province as a huge forest and beautiful park, we plan to plant 100 million trees in areas of 31,000 hectares by 2024 by investing 520 billion won (approx. US$473 million). Trees include those for improving landscape and those for making profits. Of these, we already planted 10.09 million trees last year, and 8.87 million trees in the first half of this year.
Q: We understand that a comprehensive large-scale resort will be built on an island near Yeosu. Would you elaborate on this topic?
A: Since it hosted the World Expo 2012, Yeosu has rapidly grown into an international tourist city. With a beautiful view of the evening sea and a bridge that emerged as a hot place for young tourists, the port city attracted over 13.5 million tourists last year. And a consortium led by Mirae Asset, one of the largest financial institutions in Korea, and Castlepines, a U.K.-based international investor, plans to invest 1.1 billion won (approx. US$982 million) in the development of the Gyeongdo Island near the bridge to build an attractive, premium resort complex consisting of a five-star hotel, floating villas, a water park, a yacht marina and a marine cable car. This project is expected to spur other investments in the southwestern coastal region of the Province.
Q: What are other major policies and programs of the province?
A: In an effort to increase population, the provincial government is actively implementing a childbirth encouragement policy while improving healthcare environment for childbirth. We are also implementing a program of eliminating gaps in the area of income and education for the children and youths. In addition, we are promoting eco-friendly smart farms, greenhouse agriculture, and Korean native cattle raising programs. We will also foster bio-medicine industry by supporting pharmaceutical and medical research organizations such as a Green Cross vaccine plant, Jeonnam Bioindustry Foundation, and an Integrated Medical Science Center in Jangheung.
Q: The Korea Post is fully exposed to the readers in a total of over 200 countries around the world, including 115 who are diplomatically represented in Korea by resident embassies. Do you have any message for our readers?
A: We have generally covered most of the areas of interest to the international community as well as to the expatriate population in Korea. However, I would like the re-emphasize some of the points to err on the safer side.
Jeollanam-do has rich natural resources, including large clean fields, lush mountains, seas, mudflats, many islands and islets, and long coast lines, which one might wish to call a ‘Land of Life.’
Safe food of Jeollanam-do contributes to the promotion of health of all the people visiting us as well as the native villages and townspeople. Our well-preserved natural environment is also a great asset to promoting the health and energy.
And I am sure that the precious resources we have in our province will bring back vitality to our local economy and also contribute to boosting our cultural pride.
At the same time, however, we also have tasks to be tackled such as creating more jobs in diverse areas, further improving the education standard and facilities, increasing the income of the farming and fishing communities, and finding ways to boost the flagship industries of our province.
My personal philosophy is 'listening to people attentively and looking far into the future'. I will always listen to what the people in Jeollanam-do have to say, and look far into the future when we study their opinions in making our policies.
Your opinion and suggestions are always welcome in our effort to make the Jeollanam-do a place filled with vitality, charm and love.
Resume of Governor Lee Nak-yon:
Name: Lee Nak-yon
Date of Birth: December 20, 1952 (Lunar calendar)
Place of Birth: Yeonggwang, Jeollanam-do
Family members: Kim Sook-hee (wife) and one son
March 1958 to February 1964: Graduated from Samdeok Elementary School in Beopseong, Yeonggwang, Jeollanam-do Province.
March 1964 to February 1967: Graduated from Buk Middle School in Gwangju, capital city of Jeollanam-do Province.
March 1967 to February 1970: Graduated from Jeil High School in Gwangju
March 1970 to February 1974: Graduated from the College of Law of Seoul National University with a Bachelor’s degree in Law
1979: Political reporter at leading Korean-language daily, Donga Ilbo, published in Seoul.
1990: A Tokyo correspondent of Donga Ilbo
1994: Deputy political editor at Donga Ilbo
1997: Editorial writer at Donga Ilbo
1999: Desk editor at the International Department at Donga Ilbo
May 2000 to May 2004: Elected member of 16th-term National Assembly
December 2000 to November 2001: Chairman of the 1st Policy Coordination Committee of the Democratic Party.
December 2000 to November 2001: Assistant Administrator at the Special Committee for the Inter-Korean Reconciliation, Cooperation, and Exchanges of the Democratic Party.
November 2001 to April 2002: Spokesman of the Democratic Party
September 2002 to December 2002: Spokesman of the 16th Presidential Election Task Force of the Democratic Party
December 2002 to February 2003: Spokesman for President-elect Roh Moo-hyun
March 2003 to September 2003: Representative Chief Secretary of the Democratic Party
June 2004 to June 2006: Floor leader of the Democratic Party
April 2007 to June 2007: Deputy Party Leader of the Democratic Party
July 2007: Supreme Member of the Moderate United Democratic Party
August 2007 to January 2008: Spokesman of the United New Democratic Party
May 2004 to May 2008: Member of the 17th-term National Assembly
May 2008 to May 2012: Member of the 18th-term National Assembly
July 2008 to June 2010: Chairman of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee of the National Assembly
October 2010 to May 2011: Secretary General of the Democratic Party
September 2010 to May 2012: Chairman of the Jeollanam-do Provincial Committee of the Democratic Party
May 2012 to May 2014: Elected as Member of the 19th-term National Assembly
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