South Korea’s Springboard: Smart City Concept

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Journalists Association of Korea (JAK) organized a media forum, named World Journalists Conference to promote world peace in early April 2017. Nearly one hundred journalists attended this program and became witnesses of the Korean development.

JAK provided good opportunities to see Korean economic and urban progress. Government establishes new cities in the empty areas of the country and gets benefits economically as well as inviting foreign investors. So, the Korean governors follow the concept of Smart City.

The Smart City is an urban development concept to integrate information and communication technology in a secure fashion to manage assets of the city. The concept is used to consolidate quality, and performance of urban services to reduce costs and resource consumption. It is the most important style for citizen and municipality communication in the contemporary world.

South Korea is developing urban services with the help of Smart City concept. For that, we can give three major examples as Sejong City, Incheon City, and Gwangmyeong City. These cities are close to capital Seoul. Their importance arises around economic and technologic benefits.

JAK organized fruitful trips to Incheon and Gwangmyeong. I previously visited the Sejong City before with Asia Journalist Association (AJA) members and would like to start with this.

Sejong is South Korea’s de facto administrative capital city. It is located between three major cities Daejeon, Cheonan, and Cheongju. The capital Seoul is being in a cleft stick because of high population. Sejong is hosting nine ministries and four national agencies from Seoul to reduce this snarl. Shortly, this administrative city was established to reduce the influence and dominance of Seoul on governance and economics. The city also is promoting the regional development of other areas of the region.

By 2012, the city was under a big construction and now it is ready to host new residents by aiming 200.000 people. Still, the capital plans to move more 36 government ministries and agencies to this city.

Sejong city is connected to major railroads and Cheongju International Airport.

Another example, Incheon locates on the northwestern side of the country, bordering Seoul and Gyeonggi. Today 3 million people are living here and this city is the populous one after Seoul and Busan. Incheon is using its natural advantages as an important port and forming the world’s second largest metropolitan area.

Incheon Free Economic Zone played a key role in the development of Incheon which was designated as Korea’s first free economic zone. This consists of the three close regions of Songdo, Cheongna and Yeongjong island. It made Korea as an economic attraction place in the Far East. Incheon stands as an important element of industrialization process of the country. It hosts giant companies and serves as an ideal city for living.

Gwangmyeong is a city in Gyeonggi Province. It is home to the world’s largest IKEA store at 59,000 square meters and large Costco complex.

The Mayor Mr. Yang Ki-dae hosted the world journalists and showed the hospitality of Korean culture. He is a successful mayor and realized big achievements. Along with his successes on urban planning, the transportation stands as an important point. He asked, “Have you ever heard about Eurasian Transcontinental Railroad?”

Actually, I didn’t expect that he will share the very interesting dream of the future. At the current process, South Korea is trying to stabilize regional peace and we are aware of the nuclear threat of the North. But he positively is thinking and planning the peaceful future for the region.

He continued to explain his dream, “My dream starts with KTX Gwangmyeong Station which I hope to be the departure station for the Eurasian Transcontinental Railroad, that will go through North Korea, China, and Russia and reach as far as Siberian, Europe and the UK. During my oversea’s business trips last year, our city had MOU with several cities along the Eurasian railroad such as Hassan in Russia, Hunchun and Dandong in China. In this year, our city will set up friendship agreements with Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia and Irkutsk in Russia. There are those who consider that my plan of the Eurasian Transcontinental Railroad is out of reach with reality. However, I have a strong feeling that the new cabinet the Korean administration would form on the 9th of May would improve Chinese as well as Inter-Korean relations. And these, in turn, would create a much higher possibility for North Korea to open its way for the railroad. According to my source, North Korea is positively considering about opening their railroad to Korea because if the railroad to China and Russia would go to North Korea, as certain income from imposition transit taxes would help their economy.”

To be honest, I should say I couldn’t see this kind of positive and idealist politician in recent years. His motivation source is coming from the belief to global peace. He also said, “You need to follow after with passion for achieving something and for following it with all of your heart. This spirit is what I learned from my experience as a journalist. This spirit that emphasized the importance of the scene of real life, will be a driving force for me to carry on and achieve our ambitious but worthy dream of Eurasia Transcontinental Railroad, which might sound a bit too ambitious at the first time.”

South Korean smart cities are governed by smart people. These people will make the world better place. I totally support these beautiful aims and appreciate Mr. Yang.

Mehmet Fatih ÖZTARSU

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