▲ A photo from last year's convention. Photo courtesy The Global Jeju Business Convention Organizing Committee
“Jeju-born Korean nationals had once amounted to nearly 20 percent of the total number of Koreans living in Japan according to a survey some 20 years ago, which is an impressive feat considering the fact that the number of islanders here make up a mere 1 percent of the total Korean population,” said Hyun Seung Tak, chairman of the Jeju Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who is currently busy with preparations for the 2nd Global Jeju Business Convention slated to start here on Sept. 17.
Behind this statement lies the island’s tragic history, specifically the April 3 Massacre. Near 8 years of island-wide carnage and devastation killed some 80,000 islanders and left survivors of the massacre deeply skeptical and pessimistic about their future on the island. Fearful that the stigma of the uprising would hamper their childrens' futures in Korean society as well as their own, tens of thousands of islanders left Jeju to start a new life in Japan. With grit and perseverance, many of them achieved great success in business — mostly in Osaka and Tokyo.
Korea has since, by and large, been freed from the ideological baggage of the Cold War era and wretched memories of the Korean War, while Japan rose rapidly to become the No. 2 economy in the world. Now, with their hair graying, many of the islanders in Japan are coming back to their native Jeju. It is no wonder that Japan has been consistently ranked first in a country-by-country breakdown of the overseas participants in the Global Jeju Business Convention.
In its second year since its inception in November 2009, the convention has sought to provide a networking platform to some 700 Jeju-born businessmen who return from all over the world. But the convention is evolving, Hyun told The Jeju Weekly. “Whereas the first convention was more about networking among global Jeju businessmen, participants this year will discuss better business opportunities, the expansion of jobs and investment in the island and other pertinent issues to promote the island’s economy.”
The slogan of the current Jeju governor, Woo Keun Min —“The World Comes to Jeju, and Jeju Goes to the World — jives well in that respect with the key objective of the Global Jeju Business Convention. “The new governor’s catchphrase fits squarely with the key intention and aim of the convention,” Hyun said. “The convention will hopefully contribute to the advancement of the Jeju economy if it becomes an annual event in the future.”
▲ Jeju Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Hyun Seung Tak. Photo courtesy The Global Jeju Business Convention Organizing Committee
Giving back to the homeland
“A fox lays down its head in the direction of its nesting hole if it senses death looming,” goes an old Chinese saying. If there were an Olympic event for dedication and loyalty to family and the home land, Jeju islanders could easily take gold. One unique school vacation found only on the island is ‘beolcho vacation.’ During this vacation, which usually falls on Aug. 1 in the lunar calendar approximately two weeks before the Korean Thanksgiving day of Chuseok, children are encouraged to help their parents and siblings weed and manicure the grass covering the tombs of the family’s ancestors in time for the biggest holiday of the country. Any family member who fails to attend the most important annual event of the year would be condemned or even ostracized by other siblings and relatives.
Such a love of homeland and dedication to family has led many islanders running business outside Jeju and Korea to return to their birthplace and give back to their communities. Just last week, Kim Chang In, an islander who is running a successful businesses in Osaka pledged to donate 10 billion won to Jeju National University. Kim’s fund will be spent on building a research center which will archive and study the history of Jeju expats who have immigrated to Japan.
Kim Hong Joo, son of a Seogwipo-born father who launched Honke Kamadoya, the largest bento (Japanese lunch box) chain store in Japan, did not simply stop at giving money to Jeju. Kim has run his business in Japan for near 40 years, but when Kim opened the Pinx Golf Club in Seogwipo in 1998, together with Podo Hotel and Biotopia, an upscale residence complex, he intended to spare no expense. He hired Itami Jun, a world-renowned architect who also happens to be of Korean-Japanese descent, and commissioned him to design the entire resort complex, complete with four galleries. The total construction cost added up to 250 billion won. According to Kim, it was not so much a business as a way to give back to his homeland.
Hyun Seung Tak seems to believe that for the global businessmen gathered at the 2nd Global Jeju Business Convention, the best way to give back to Jeju is by creating jobs for the educated young islanders. The convention will separately host the “Jeju Job Fair 2010,” Hyun said, where some 45 companies founded by natives will recruit up to 250 young islanders.
Hyun advises the Jeju provincial government to do more than simply relying on the love of the homeland by global Jeju businessmen. “[The] government is usually busy with publicizing the number of MOU’s signed recently, but what global businessmen want is not some hollow press releases, but practical and down-to-earth assistance with actual investment and business management,” said Hyun, adding that such assistance will accelerate the speed of investment in the island by global Jeju businessmen.
The 2nd Global Jeju Business Convention will start its three day program on Sept. 17 at the Lotte Hotel in Jungmun.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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