▲ ICC Jeju president Kim Hyung Soo. Photo by Brian Miller
International Convention Center Jeju president Kim Hyung Soo has literally been involved in the center from the ground up. He said that when the idea of developing ICC Jeju was first raised in 1996, he was serving as a section chief in the provincial government’s tourism development department. “During the establishment, I actually worked on the issue, so I understand the background of ICC Jeju better than anyone else,” he said. “I feel attached to ICC.”
Born in Namwon, Seogwipo, Kim had a long career in public service, having worked for the Jeju provincial government for 30 years before serving as the mayor of Seogwipo City from December 2006 to December 2008. He took the helm of ICC Jeju, a company jointly owned by private investors and the provincial government, in March 2009, and said his experience as mayor has helped him in many ways. “Based on my administration experience, I meet convention clients to persuade them to have their conventions in ICC Jeju and get advice from experts on conceptualizing a profit business model.
“As a representative and leader, there are many similarities whether the position is in public office or if it’s in ICC Jeju.”
In just over a year as president, much has happened at the center. In June 2009, it hosted leaders from 11 countries for the ASEAN Summit, the second-largest ever held in Korea, and last year Jeju beat out Cancun, Mexico, to host the World Conservation Congress 2012, which will revolve around ICC and at which Kim said more than 10,000 participants are expected. In addition, the complex has hosted a range of cultural and artistic performances, trying to “break the traditional image of a conference facility.” Then, on May 29 and 30, the center hosted the Third Trilateral Summit between the Republic of Korea, Japan and the People’s Republic of China. Future plans for the center include an anchor hotel, currently under construction beside ICC, and further growing the convention market on the island. “This will eventually result in increasing the capacity of the Jeju economy, creating more jobs and giving the locals pride,” Kim said.
He has also seen a significant change over the last 10 years in the perception of those local Jeju residents. “Before, Jeju residents were quite protective or exclusive against people from the mainland, and even not willing to sell land because they thought they were deprived of something,” Kim said.
In that same time, the agricultural and fishery industries have shrunk from 70 percent of Jeju’s economy to just 16 percent, with tourism taking over as the major driver.
“Over the last years Jeju has become a free international city and been through rapid changes in many different ways.”
Particularly as the host of WCC 2012, Jeju needed to take care that future development should be eco-friendly, so it could become “the environmental capital of the world,” Kim said.
“When developing, there should be very strict criteria which areas should be developed and which areas should be strictly protected. There should be really clear criteria on the rules of use of the land.
“Jeju’s lifeblood is a clean environment,” he added, “without it, Jeju cannot survive.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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