The new governor of North Jeolla Province hopes to build a business-friendly environment for the southwestern region of Korea.
Governor Kim Kwan-young is a two-time lawmaker in his early 50s who took office in July. With a notable career of being a certified public accountant who has passed both the bar and the civil service exam, he is eager to push new initiatives.
“The people are expecting a young and vibrant administration led by me, and I am doing my best to meet their expectations,” said Kim, who earned nearly 80 percent of the votes in the local elections held in June.
Kim said he is doing everything he can to promise a new future to the southwestern region.
“I did the final presentation myself in a bid to attract the Hyper-Tube train test center,” he said, referring to the high-speed transportation system.
The Hyper-Tube train, otherwise known as the hyperloop system, will allow pressurized vehicles to travel through a low-pressure tube at a maximum speed of 1,200 kilometers per hour.
In August, North Jeolla Province was picked as preferred bidder for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s Hyper-Tube train test center project. If proceeded as planned, the test center will be built at the agricultural life science site in the Saemangeum area.
"Though North Jeolla Province has potential for growth, it has not seen much development. There needs to be a breakthrough -- a leap," he said. "There needs to a new momentum for the growth of the province’s economy."
Kim insisted only new jobs can better the lives of the province’s residents.
"The goal is to create jobs through attracting businesses. The younger generation can plan their lives here only if the economy gets better and there are attractive jobs," he said.
To attract more businesses and workers to the southwestern region, Kim argues the immigration policy should be more flexible, explaining there aren’t enough workers in rural areas without foreign workers.
“We have to attract creative talent regardless of their nationality. There needs to be a major change in our immigration measures. I have already requested the central government to transfer some authorities of visa-related work to governors and mayors,” he said.
Apart from the job market, Kim has his eyes on improving the education environment in the region.
“Another important standard is education. I am working on a new model which will have the local government provide education for people throughout their lifetimes,” he said.
Kim, a member of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, believes that cooperation between rival parties is crucial.
“Though the Democratic Party is the ruling party in North Jeolla Province, it is the opposition party in central politics. That is why cooperation (with the People Power Party) is important,” Kim said, adding he has scouted a figure from the People Power Party as his policy advisor.
“For the people and North Jeolla Province, the differences between rival parties are not important,” Kim said.
Soft power innovation is important as well. The new governor is hopeful about tourism returning to the region after the pandemic.
“Korea is one of the most-wanted countries to visit after the COVID-19 pandemic. The popularity of K-culture is a favorable factor for tourism marketing,” he said.
North Jeolla Province is an area with a rich history and serene nature, the governor said.
“The region can show the true charms of Korea. Its clean natural landscapes also attract tourists who are seeking a retreat,” Kim said, adding he will form a tourism cluster with the area's assets, such as Jeonju Traditional Korean Village, the legacy of Baekje (one of three ancient kingdoms in Korea which lasted from 18 BC to AD 660) and its natural landscape.
Kim believes the only way he can help the people of North Jeolla Province is by seeing their day-to-day conditions on the ground.
“People are in difficulty with rising prices and the coronavirus. A governor is a politician who works in the closest proximity with the people. I will govern while looking for answers on the ground, listening to everyone’s voices,” he said.
By Im Eun-byel, Hwang Sung-chul and Seo In-ju
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