The first “Town Meeting” of the Jeju Global Education City (JGEC) was held on April 24 in the Hallasan room of the JGEC Office, Seogwipo City, allowing residents to publicly voice their issues and concerns.
The main issues raised during the discussion included a need for infrastructure, the current lack of community due to the absence of communal areas, and the pressing need for improved public transportation.
Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min, JGEC Office Director Oh Soon Geum, and other Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) employees were on hand to field questions and listen to the concerns of residents living in this ambitious new city.
After speeches by Governor Woo; keynote speeches by Kyonghui Sexton, a resident within the city; and Amos Stamp-Jerabek, dean of Student Life at Korea International School (KIS) Jeju, the conference was opened to the floor.
The first major concern to be addressed was by Sexton during her speech where she lamented at length of the need for facilities, like a supermarket, parks, and cafés.
“Life here is very boring I found,” said Sam Hong to the agreement of many in the room.
There are no pubs, or even a decent restaurant for adults to relax at, he said.
Street lights, a banking facility, and a supermarket which sells an array of products are other facilities he mentioned that were necessary to improve life in the JGEC.
The lack of a convenience store and a café resonated with much of the audience and capitalized most of the hour-long conversation.
“I was so excited,” said Sexton concerning a rumor she had heard earlier in the week that a convenience store would be opening in her building. She is dubious of the claim though, since a Paris Baguette scheduled to open in March, never did.
The owner of the ill-fated bakery and café was in the audience and said “I tried my best to open the bakery” but due to the city’s small population, and with no subsidiaries or governmental financial support, it would not be financially possible.
“The government must spend money to establish [these kinds of services] until when private business people can establish their own businesses,” said Hong, which was repeated by many in the audience.
In response, a representative of the JDC said that their hands were tied concerning private businesses.
“What [the JDC] can do or what it can’t do in terms of city development, for example the convenience store, the private section is responsible,” said JDC Edu-City Department Deputy General Manager Jo Young-suk.
Nigel Schofield, a resident and a teacher within the city, said that he felt “very isolated” within the JGEC.
“At the moment, I feel there is very little in terms of community because we have no community center or hub. We’ve got no parks really … there’s nowhere for adults as well as children to go,” he said.
Also, concerning transportation, another issue often raised, for someone without a car like Schofield, “to go to a café or for me to go shopping, or me to go for medical assistance … I have to travel for at least three or four hours.”
Peter Daly, principal of the North London Collegiate School Jeju (the first school to have been established within the JGEC) thanked the JDC for offering the forum and commended them on their ambition, but also warned that if certain things don’t improve there will be ramifications.
“I think it’s clear and obvious there are problems and I do think we have to take this seriously, more seriously than you probably think,” said Daly, reminding the room that international teachers don’t teach for the money, but for the experience.
“Unless you get this right, and you must get it right very quickly or what could happen — and I’m not being doom struck about this — but international teachers are very difficult persons to recruit.”
The JDC said that they will take all the concerns and suggestions to the governor and will have a response within a month. No specific date was set for their response.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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