Friday, April 01, 2011

Will Jeju, S.Korea, be the next Singapore as a Knowledge Hub?

I am sitting in the airport lounge at Jeju airport, South Korea, waiting for a flight to Seoul, and then onwards to London.

After just three days on the island, I ask, will Jeju be the next Singapore, as a Knowledge Hub?

Why do I say this?

Jeju is an island on the southern tip of South Korea. If you look on a map you will see that it is a short flight to Seoul, to Beijing, to Shanghai and to Tokyo, all major capital cities of S.Korea, China and Japan, with very high populations.

Very significantly, in 2002, the Korean Government designated Jeju as the Free International City by recognising its value, and designated Jeju as the Special Self-Governing Province in 2006, the only exceptions being national defence, diplomacy and administration of justice.

There is indiscriminate(no tax) reduction in domestic and foreign capital.

Today, Jeju, like Singapore many years ago, has a relatively low population. Around 600,000 people live there. At the moment, about 10 million people visit Jeju each year as tourists.  It is currently the main business. This is because Jeju is a staggeringly beautiful natural island, with a great climate, and a wonderful and majestic Mt Halla soaring high to embrace the entire island. Locals rightfully boast that water flowing from it, anywhere on the island, makes people feel good just by simply drinking it with hands.

The Hallasan Nature Reserve is spectacular, and the ancient volcanoes and Lava Tubes are beyond words. It is no surprise that it is a declared UNESCO World natural heritage area.

But that is now. What about the future?

Well the vision is for a ‘Free International City centering on mankind, environment and knowledge’. The first phase will be completed this year, 2011.

Secondly, South Korea are the most advanced in the world today with internet connectivity and infrastructure investment.

Thirdly, the world class International Conference Centre is within 2 hrs flight from Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo. The international airport infrastructure is world class.

Most importantly, Jeju International City has six core projects:

1. High-Tech Science and Technology Complex

2. English Education City

3. Healthcare Town

4. Seogwipo Tourism Port

5. Resort-Type Residential Complex

6. Myths – History Theme Park

After 3 days on the island, what is my prediction?

I strongly suspect, at least, that Jeju could become the Knowledge Hub of North East Asia, as Singapore has become the Knowledge Hub of South East Asia.

And finally, of utmost importance for success and growth, is the natural hospitality of the people.

Our host, Mr Jun-Ho Kim, Director,International Cooperation Department, Korea Productivity Center, totally surprised us all with a ‘cultural tour’ after meetings. We were introduced to female divers offering fresh seafood with a  Korean drink I can only describe as very very good cold saki. I am sure the Koreans consider it better. We were introduced to very local eating. We were sped around the coastline in a jet boat. We attended a Korean circus, we had lunch on a floating seafood hotel, we climbed the peaks, and saw the famous setting sun.

If Jun-Ho Kim is a typical example of hospitality, the rest of the world had better watch out. But I suspect he is extraordinary, by any standards, even though the local people were, indeed, most friendly and kind.

If I get some spare cash I know where I will be investing it!

I think Jeju, S.Korea, is a place to watch carefully in the growing global knowledge and experience economy.

Good luck Jeju.

Ron Young

(PS I will be adding my photographs as soon as I get back to Europe.)

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