On Dec. 30, 2011, Seogwipo City welcomed its newest mayor Kim Jae Bong. Born and raised on the southern half of the island, he held the post of vice-president of Seogwipo City Council, served as executive director of the International Convention Center (ICC) Jeju, and was a vice-governor without portfolio. On Feb. 16, Mayor Kim spoke with The Weekly in his office at Seogwipo City Hall.
▲ Seogwipo City Mayor Kim Jae Bong. Photo courtesy Seogwipo City Hall
As a Seogwipo native, you have seen Seogwipo change quite a lot. How has it changed and what is in store for the city?
Seogwipo City once had a period of rapid economic development with the introduction of mandarin farming and the Jungmun Tourist Complex. Now, this is stagnant but I believe that Seogwipo has eternal potential, superb resources, and competitiveness. I started the challenge to make Seogwipo the world’s best green resort city.
Seogwipo is where primary and tertiary industries co-exist. Of course, the primary industry is necessary and will be continually developed. In addition to that, I will focus on the tourism industry more in the future, too.
As one of the hottest issues affecting Seogwipo, how will your office deal with KORUS FTA?
With this free trade agreement, Seogwipo will face trouble with borderless competition. This is an unavoidable international trend so we are calmly preparing [measures]. If we pour energy into innovation, I believe we can transform this crisis into the chance to strengthen the competitiveness of Jeju mandarin farming.
In order to accomplish this, I will push ahead with improvements in the quality and export of our mandarin crops. Specifically, [we have] the four season production system and the Seogwipo EXPO, which puts Jeju mandarins on display and encourages exports.
In addition, we are planning to imple-ment a project dubbed a “mandarin food industry cluster,” [that will] introduce subtropical crops, and other preventative measures.
How are things going with World Conservation Congress (WCC) that will be held on Sept. 6 to 15 at ICC Jeju?
▲ Photo courtesy Seogwipo City Hall
This year the WCC will be a unique chance to promote the beautiful nature and culture of Seogwipo. Thus, we are making great efforts to support preparation for a successful WCC.
Last Jan. 19, we held a rally [to build grassroots interest in volunteering during the congress] with 500 citizens in attendance, and on Feb. 14, a support committee composed of 398 citizens had its inauguration ceremony. They have now started their work. We also organized a headquarters for improving cooperation among the related organizations in Seogwipo.
In addition, we are providing English-language training for Seogwipo City officers who will join the WCC promotion [team].
For the success of the 2012 WCC event, the citizens’ positive participation, a strong sense of service to community, and a kind demeanor are important. I have politely requested their support.
This next question is a sensitive one. Our readers are interested in your stance on the Gangjeong naval base issue.
I feel sorry for the villagers and those who suffer so much. I’m always apprehensive that people may be injured in the fierce confrontation between the protesters and the construction companies. I promise I will play the role of a mediator between Gangjeong’s villagers and the central government.
We heard that there’s a new provincial project that is the responsibility of your office.
As one of the main pledges by Governor Woo Keun Min, the province announced the goal of creating 20,000 jobs for the youth in Jeju. The project is not only to support the government’s policy but also to propel job creation, cultivate human resources, and attract investment, especially for Seogwipo youth. However, the plan is only in the early stages.
What is your resolution for this year?
There are many pending issues in Seogwipo that I should solve this year. [For example,] the City Hall buildings are divided into two buildings. The intercity bus terminals are also in the same situation. They need to be united.
This year I hope all the citizens are healthy and make their dreams come true. I will also care for the citizens who [are overlooked by society]. I would like more people to smile brightly and talk to each other about their dreams and hopes for Seogwipo.
How do you want Seogwipo citizens to perceive your work as mayor?
Being born and raised in Seogwipo, I was personally aware of the farmers’ problems in taking their low-quality mandarins to the mandarin manufacturing plant [to sell at a low price]. I’m proud of my understanding of the citizens’ feelings and mind. I won’t forget this and will listen to the citizens’ voices. I promise I will do my best to lead the administration by putting the citizens first and offering them hope.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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