Yoo Jeong-bok, mayor of Incheon Metropolitan City
Yoo Jeong-bok, mayor of Incheon Metropolitan City

As a gateway to Korea, Incheon is a city open to the world as it boasts both Incheon Port and Incheon International Airport. It is growing into a world-class city with a population of 3 million, including wide plains and mountains, the sea, and numerous islands large and small. Business Korea conducted an interview with Incheon Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok to hear more about the city’s goals and visions for the future. — Ed.

Question: I heard that the city of Incheon has recently decided to host the APEC Summit. Would you tell us more about that?

Answer: Incheon City installed a sculpture showing Incheon citizens’ wish to host the APEC in December of 2022 at the Attul Plaza of Incheon City Hall and launched a pan-citizen bidding committee consisting of about 100 people. In addition, through the official SNS for attracting Incheon bids, we are continuously conducting PR activities such as providing card news and showing citizen messages of support for the city’s bid.

This year, by preparing a step-by-step omnidirectional publicity strategy through all channels, Incheon City will actively hold various events such as a campaign to collect 1 million people’s signatures in Incheon and holding forums with international organizations and colleges and universities. At the same time, we will spread a consensus among people in Incheon and the Seoul metropolitan area and make thorough preparations to apply for the host city selection competition by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Q: Why did Incheon join the race to be selected as the host city for the APEC Summit and what are the expected effects?

A: Incheon has a world-class international airport, 15 international organizations including the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the largest free economic zone in Korea, and rich experience in hosting various large-scale international events such as the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and the 2018 OECD World Forum.

In particular, Incheon is the best city to realize the three major goals of APEC — trade and investment, innovation-driven and digital economies, and inclusive and sustainable growth. We will definitely host the summit to elevate Incheon’s status as an international city and create various ripple effects in politics, economy, society, and culture, and use it as a driving force to grow into a world-class city.

If the APEC Summit is held in Incheon, it is expected to induce about 2.4 trillion won [US$1.9 billion] in economic effects and create 20,000 decent jobs. It will significantly help Incheon to take off as a world-class city by raising the brand value of the city.

Q: Incheon City applied for a project to attract a semiconductor-specialized complex in February. Does Incheon have a foundation for fostering the semiconductor industry?

A: On Feb. 27 the city of Incheon submitted a plan and application for fostering a specialized semiconductor complex to the Ministry of Industry. First of all, we plan to attract companies related to advanced semiconductor packaging to a 3.3 million square meter reserved site in Yeongjong International City to create a high-tech industrial complex as a base for global expansion. As it is a new complex, we will respond to government policies by realizing the RE100 through offshore wind power and fuel cell power generation and build a global business center including industrial, residential, and welfare facilities.

We will establish an advanced packaging convergence research center and a technical support center in Songdo International Business District and the Namdong Industrial Complex, respectively. We will also develop Songdo as a base for R&D and manpower training, and the Namdong Industrial Complex as a base to foster small promising companies.

Since the launch of the Semiconductor Specialized Complex Promotion Committee in October 2022, Incheon City has gained support from major institutions and organizations by signing business agreements with colleges and universities, including Sungkyunkwan University, and academic associations focusing on research activities in the semiconductor industry including the Packaging Society and the Korea Fabless Industry Association (KFIA).

Q: You recently went on a business trip to Hong Kong to materialize the New Hong Kong City Project, one of your major pledges. Please explain the results of the trip.

A: On this business trip to Hong Kong I heard about Hong Kong’s economic trends and actively promoted the strengths of Incheon in meetings with officials of European, U.S., and Korean companies in Hong Kong. In addition, we talked with financial officials at the Hong Kong office of the Korean Financial Services Commission, Shinhan Bank, and Korea Development Bank to seek ways to expand and develop Incheon’s financial industry such as Cheongna Hana Financial Town and GCF. In addition, we received a promise for continuous exchanges with KOTRA Trade Center Hong Kong by holding an event for business attraction consultations.

In addition, we asked the Korean Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and the Korean Consulate General in Hong Kong to give support to Incheon’s plan to host an Overseas Koreans Office. As a result, through this business trip to Hong Kong, I became convinced of the success of the New Hong Kong City Project for Incheon City. Starting with the New Hong Kong City Vision Proclamation Ceremony to be held this month, we will try to attract anchor companies suitable for Incheon’s conditions.

Q: Recently, you visited Baengnyeong Island, Daecheong Island, and Socheong Island for two days and toured the airport construction site on Baengnyeong Island. How is the airport project going?

A: Baengnyeong Airport is a project that was promoted when I served as mayor after the 6th Incheon mayoral election. The project finally got back on the right track when I won the 8th Incheon mayoral election, becoming the mayor again. At the end of last year, the central government approved the project after a feasibility study. Thus the project is being promoted in earnest these days. The project aims to build a small airport by investing about 200 billion won [US$154 million]. The airport will be able to accommodate up to 80-seat planes.

When Baengnyeong Airport is built, a trip to Baengnyeong Island from the mainland, which took 4-5 hours before, will be reduced to one hour. Also, currently, the car ferry services have a 26 percent cancellation rate, as they are subject to weather conditions at sea. But airplanes will be less affected by bad weather conditions at sea, improving transportation conditions for the island. In addition, the airport is expected to create a new era in the tourism and cultural industries on Baengnyeong Island, Daecheong Island, and their neighbor islands.

The Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport aims to open the airport in 2029, but Incheon City wants to open it in 2027 by expediting administrative procedures.

Q: Last year, you visited the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux, near the D-Day beaches in France, and said that you will develop the Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Project into a world-class event. Please explain the project in detail.

A: Although the Sept. 15 Incheon Landing Operation during the Korean War is a great achievement in world history, the Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Event has only been a simple formal commemorative event in Incheon. It needs to be developed into a world-class festival. While focusing on securing national funds by strengthening cooperation with the central government, we will form a task force with the Navy Headquarters and the Marine Corps Command and a pan-citizen consultative body to promote Incheon Landing Operation commemoration projects.

First of all, starting from this year, a commemorative week will be designated, not just a one-off commemorative event. We will hold an event for a reenactment of Operation Incheon Landing, an international security forum, a cultural festival celebrating the victory, a street parade with war veterans and cultural experience programs for ordinary people, a marathon competition, a patriotic painting contest, and screenings of movies about the Incheon Landing.

We will expand the commemorative projects little by little to turn it into an international event attended by heads of state and veterans from all countries that participated in the Incheon Landing Operation and the Korean War in 2025 when the landing operation will mark the 75th anniversary.

Q: Last but least, what kind of city do you wish Incheon to be?

A: It is time for me, as the eighth popularly elected Incheon mayor, to complete the future of Incheon that I envisioned as the sixth popularly elected Incheon mayor. Only when Incheon citizens are happy can Incheon grow and advance and Korea can rise again. Therefore, citizens’ happiness should have precedence over any other values.

So, when I took office as eighth popularly elected Incheon mayor, I set my vision, “Incheon’s Dream Will Make Korea’s Future Brighter,” and my goal to make Incheon, a world-class city where citizens are happy. The future of Incheon that I want to see is a world-class city where all citizens live happily, a balanced city where everyone lives well, a city where dreams come true, a city of strong communications among people with sincerity and consideration and an innovation-powered city that creates future value.

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