|▲ Moonsoon Choi, Governor of Gangwon Province|
Gangwon is a mountainous and forested province in the northeast region of South Korea. The peaky Taebaek Mountains separates the province from the cliffy east Youngdong to the gradual west Youngseo. The Han River and the Nakdong River, the two lifelines of the land, start from the province. The Bukhan River embraces a variety of native fish in the upper part, and a number of important dams (the Peace Dam, Hwacheon Dam, Chuncheon Dam, Soyang Dam and Uiam Dam) control the flow of the rivers as well as water for drinking. <PowerKorea> met the governor Moonsoon Choi and heard about the province and the driving force of growth.
1. We learned that the provincial building moved to Chuncheon from Gangneung and Wonju. What is the historical background?
It was 1395 that the Joseon Kingdom called the region Gangwondo by borrowing the first letter of Gangneung and of Wonju, the two main cities of the province. In 1895, however, the province was controlled separately by Youngdong and Youngseo and a government office in Chuncheon started to be used as the provincial building until the Japanese colonial era. During the Korean War, a provisional office was set up in Wonju and then back to Chuncheon again but the building was more like a tent. It was 1955 that a government fund was allocated to build a proper building and the official inauguration ceremony was held on 15th October 1957.
2. Why is economic cooperation with North important for the province?
The province is the sole province separated in the middle between the two nations. For this reason, the province has been under restrictions for 70 years due to political and military tense between South and North. So the residents of the province are eager for economic development and this must be backed up by active economic exchanges and cooperation. Economic booming in the region will invite investment and it leads to jobs and eventually the income.
3. A World Cup qualifying round up is held in Pyongyang. And you have been holding the Ari Sports Cup U15 participated by 6 countries including South and North. What can be the meaning of it?
Gangwon is the sole province separated between two nations in the world so both parts have pushed forward exchanges for each other’s benefit. Singing an agreement in 2000 is a good example. The Ari Sports Cup U15 was first organized in 2014 with a goal to recover homogeneity of Korean and to provide a meaningful opportunity to youth in the world. The event is ongoing regardless political tense between South and North and it has contributed to successfully holding the PyeongChang 2018. So the province is working on expanding the event to more events than football alone.
4. What can be the meaning of the PyeongChang 2018 overseas?
It not only opened our eyes to the importance of peace on the Korean Peninsula but also on the world peace. Peace means money and money means economy and economy means survival. And this law applies almost all people in the world over Korea.
5. We learned that you are working on tourism including the DMZ?
The Demilitarized Zone in the middle of the Korean Peninsula is a unique zone that has kept natural ecosystem for over 70 years without a touch of human hands. So it is highly valuable and profitable if we use it well. For this, the province joined hands with Gyeonggi Province and the Cultural Heritage Administration to list the DMZ as a joint World Heritage of UNESCO. The province is also working on establishing joint tourism exchange committee and creating related theme parks, activity programs for local specialties, peace paths of the DMZ alongside various trails throughout the province.
6. Has the PyeongChang 2018 raised brand value of Gangwon?
I think the province earned a title ‘the hub of peace’ as a result. We also raised our international recognition. Taking the momentum, we are planning to draw yearly 3 million visitors through PyeongChange 2018 anniversary event and the PyeongChang Forum. In addition, we are working on introducing a variety of tourist packages relating to the PyeongChange 2018 and the peace in the Korean Peninsula.
7. Tell us about the restrictions that have seized development drive of the province?
The province has the biggest number of restrictions on development and investment and the total affected area is 27,848㎢, a 1.7 times bigger than the whole land of the province. Irony! The military restrictions alone have lost 6.3 trillion won (5.273 billion US dollars). So the residents of the province have rights to ask due compensation to the government through appropriate laws and deregulations for balanced development of the nation.
8. How do you understand the importance of the dignity of all human beings?
The importance of the dignity of all human beings is needless to say. I think it is not a symbol stated in the Constitution but all people on earth have right to enjoy political and economic freedom and receive proper medical treatment and much more.
9. You are ambitious to turn the province as the economic hub in the north region of Korea, China, Japan and Russia?
The province opened the world’s first sea route by establishing the East Asia Growth Meeting in 1994 in cooperation with the regional governments. In 2013, we also established the GTI EXPO to promote regional economic cooperation. Alongside these projects, we are working on building a logistic hub on the East Sea that can create around 150 job placements and opening more ferry and cruise routes to transport tourists.
10. What is your plan to activate regional economy for the moment?
Many businesses in the province are small. Surprisingly, we are the only province that has seen an increase in export volume recently alongside 64.5% increased employment rate (average employment rate is 61.5% nationwide). To keep the pace, the province is providing subsidy for social insurance and running various deduction programs relating to jobs and companies especially for one-man businesses or micro business owners.
11. The young employment rate is low in the province. What is your solution?
The number of young people in the province reduced to 251 in 2018 from 259 in 2016. It is notable that more young people in the province tend to live or work in the capital region. For this, the province is working in cooperation with the University Job Center and is set to run 37 times of career consulting and training programs for 650 young people.
12. What are the things you wish to achieve during your term?
I want to push forward 3 Innovative Growth Project to create jobs and to maintain the level of populations. For this, an e-mobility cluster and a liquid hydrogen city will be created that can be the foundation to drive sustainable job flows and future-driven industries. Most hydrogen techniques are focused on gas at the moment but it will make a shift to liquid in the coming years and Gangwon Province is the right place to start.
13. Lastly, would like to leave a message to <PowerKorea> readers?
There are some criticisms about our exchanges with North. But we are determined to set an example of a successful economic cooperation between the two separated nations. I wish <PowerKorea> readers a happiness and a good health.
송방원 기자 email@example.com