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Jeju at crossroads as investors await Won go aheadGovernor’s early actions signal a change in direction as investment projects are reviewed and cross-party consensus is sought
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승인 2014.06.30  15:25:52
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This is an updated version of an article that was first published on June 30 -- Ed.

The new Jeju governor, Won Hee-ryong, has ordered a review of major foreign investment projects following the discovery that the plans for Resorts World Jeju at the Myths and History Theme Park exceeded the agreed plan-ning permission. A groundbreaking ceremony at the Andeok-myeon site was postponed on June 24.

The controversial theme park is a core project of Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) and Resorts World Jeju is being managed by Ramjung Jeju Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Landing Hong Kong, who deposited 150 million USD for the theme park earlier this year.

Won Hee-ryong was voted in after securing 60 percent of the vote in the June 4 gubernatorial election and at his inauguration ceremony on July 1 he pledged more local consultation on Jeju development and to ensure local capital is used to drive job creation.

▲ The plans for the JDC's Myths and History Theme Park have been put on hold as the governor-elect has ordered a review of the project. Image courtesy JDC

Investment projects to be reviewed
The governor criticized the Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) for rushing ahead with the Resorts World groundbreaking ceremony with Landing Hong Kong and Genting Singapore. Ramjung Jeju Development Corporation, managing the project for Landing, was accused of increasing the hotel capacity and land area without consultation (see page 2). Planning permission is now being reviewed.

Won stated that if he were to allow the groundbreaking ceremony to go ahead he would be backtracking on his election pledge to review all “reckless and hazardous” Chinese capital investment. He thus ordered the review and denied that his actions would lead to friction and uncertainty for foreign investors.

However, Won has gone further and demanded reviews of all other large-scale investment projects including Raon Private Town, the Teddy Palace Resort and Jeju Healthcare Town (see page 2). Also thrown into uncertainty is the controversial Dream Tower high-rise development in Shin Jeju, financed by Greenland Holding Group, based in Shanghai.

In another ominous sign for Chinese investors, Won has doubled the investment needed to qualify for permanent residency. Previously a 500 million won property purchase sufficed, but now an additional 500 million investment in government bonds is needed.

While the moves have been welcomed by many in Jeju, Zhang Dawei, chief analyst of Centaline Property Agency, told the Chinese National Business Daily that the moves will affect trust in local governance. “The current investment in Jeju island will be shrinking,” he warned.

▲ The governor-elect, Won Hee-ryeong, is keen to show he is listening to locals' concerns in his first few weeks. Photo courtesy goodone.co.kr

Governor Won meets Chinese consul general Zhang Xin

In response to the controversy, and to congratulate Won on his governorship, Chinese consul general Zhang Xin requested a meeting with the new governor.

The two met in Jeju on July 9 and during the 30-minute talks Won requested that all Chinese investment be transparent. In return, Zhang asked for consistency in investment policy from the new Jeju governor.

Won said, “Jeju actively welcomes Chinese people and Chinese investment,” adding that the government will continue to “attract transparent and stable Chinese investment.” He went on to say that Jeju will spare no cost in supporting Chinese investment projects, “If they remain true to the original purpose.”

Zhang said that investment will continue, using a Chinese idiom, “Pungumujo,” indicating the need for progress despite a storm. Zhang pledged to pass on Won’s words to investors and stressed the economic benefits Chinese investment and tourists bring to Jeju.

Public consultation

Public mistrust of foreign investors increased under former governor Woo’s leadership due to a perceived lack of communication. Many community groups called for closer consultation and one of the first things Won did after his election win was to embark on a tour of Jeju’s villages to gauge the public mood.

For example, on June 18 he was in Hallim where he stayed at a local “minbak” (guesthouse) and listened to local concerns at a fish market. He then rode a bus across the island to Siheung-ri, Seongsan-eup, where a gathering of villagers from local communities such as Susan-ri and Onpyeong-ri debated with him

Although it remains to be seen if these public relations exercises will result in concrete policy recommen-dations, Won is clearly keen to be seen to engage with Jeju’s villagers. His personal website even displays an interactive map with details of his 203 consultations.

Cross-party consensus
Won is also seeking to build a spirit of consensus across party lines and move away from “the politics of division.” In an early sign of such intent, defeated rival Shin Gu-beom was appointed chairperson of the New Government Preparatory Committee which is overseeing the transition in governorship.

Declaring a politics of reconciliation and coexistence, the governor stated his desire to change how politics is done by instigating a partnership between his New Frontier Party and their rivals, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

However, Won’s appointment of Shin on the transition committee, along with former governors Woo Keun-min and Kim Tae-hwan on his campaign team, raised eyebrows. Critics have accused Won of using the appointments to support the political establishment, rather than herald a new era of consensus building. In this light, the rumored August appointment of Jeju mayor is eagerly anticipated.

▲ Shin Gu-beom (left) and Won Hee-ryong are now working together after being rivals in the gubernatorial election. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori

The April 3 Special Law
As chairperson of the Preparatory Committee, and in an early sign of this cross-party spirit, Shin's early policy sugggestion to support 4.3 victims and the bereaved is set to be approved. The policy targets self-reliance and independence by boosting living and medical expense payments.

The finalization of the Jeju April 3rd Peace Park looks to have stalled, however, after the commission failed to support the construction of the third stage of the park. Although the commission’s decision is not binding, Won will be disappointed as the construction was one of his election pledges.

Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Port at Gangjeong
The naval base development looks a certainty, but Won has ordered a reconciliation and fact-finding mission to review judicial action against Gangjeong residents and anti-base campaigners. Victims of maltreatment by authorities may be eligible for compensation under plans mooted by Won.

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