The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Gangwon Province should move past regulations for development says opposition hopeful

By Im Eun-byel

Published : May 26, 2022 - 15:01

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Lee Kwang-jae Lee Kwang-jae

Gangwon Province has been underdeveloped, limited by heavy regulations, says Lee Kwang-jae, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea’s Gangwon Province candidate for governor.

Lee, who held the post of Gangwon Province governor for a short period in 2010 before he was removed due to involvement in a large political scandal, believes a new future awaits the province.

According to Lee, the new Special Act on the Establishment of Gangwon Special Self-Governing Province, likely to pass the National Assembly on Friday, will be the first step for a brighter future.

“I want to change the fate of Gangwon Province,” Lee said in an email interview with The Korea Herald.

Under the special act, Lee hopes to open a new chapter for the northeastern region by making Gangwon Province a mecca of international education.

“Gangwon Province will be the hub of education,” Lee said, adding he will attract international schools to the area, similar to Jeju Island.

“It will be easier to bring international schools to Gangwon Province once the special act is passed. Gangwon will be the hub of global education, bringing in elite international schools from the US and Europe,” Lee said.

“If we offer education of global standards, students will eventually come to Gangwon Province to study.”

Along with attracting international schools, Lee said he will build a campus for integrated education, encompassing kindergartens as well as elementary, middle and high schools all at once, while launching 18 centers for college application consulting to support local high schools.

If the special act passes the National Assembly, industry in Gangwon Province -- often blocked by heavy regulations for national security and environmental protection – will boom, Lee said.

“I will attract 10 major enterprises in Korea to base themselves in Gangwon Province,” Lee said. “Local universities will have related departments to help students to get employed.”

While Gangwon Province is a region heavily reliant on tourism with its beautiful mountain ridges and coastline, Lee is certain his “Switzerland Overlooking the Ocean” project plan can invigorate the local tourism industry.

Lee’s “Switzerland Overlooking the Ocean” road map is a project worth 2 trillion won ($1.58 billion), involving setting up a hiking trail from Samcheok to Goseong, developing forests in areas damaged by fire and forming an eco-friendly business cluster on the east coast.

“‘Switzerland Overlooking the Ocean’ is a major transformation project for the whole east coast,” Lee said.

Lee said the project can help prevent the spread of forest fires, which Gangwon experiences nearly every year. The region has lost 605.2 square kilometers up to now due to forest fire, as large as Seoul, Lee said.

The trails will serve as roads for fire trucks in case of fire, while functioning as trekking paths that people can hike along the coast, he said.

Lee’s rival is Kim Jin-tae from the People Power Party. Poll results show Kim has so far been earning more support than Lee, as Gangwon Province is a region that has traditionally leaned conservative.

“I had a late start. The new administration has just begun its term. I knew that it would be a difficult election,” Lee said.

“Choosing a candidate who will work for the people in the local elections is different from a presidential election. I believe people will determine who has made more efforts for the development of Gangwon Province and who was sincere, who is more ready,” he said.

By Im Eun-byel (