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Mayor Baek Kun-ki transforms Yongin into a hub for semiconductors

City of Yongin turns into special city as citizens take lead

Full view of Yongin semiconductor cluster (Yongin City)
Full view of Yongin semiconductor cluster (Yongin City)
Baek Kun-ki, the mayor of Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, and a retired four-star Army general, is a strategist. He also served as a member of the 19th National Assembly from March 2014 to December 2015.

As soon as he was elected mayor in 2018, he drew up his “big picture” plan for Yongin. He promised to enhance services to improve on the housing shortage and transportation environments tainted by reckless development, and pledged to create a clean and amiable living environment for residents. Although he was not responsible, Mayor Baek apologized for the mess caused by such reckless development.

Yongin is divided into two areas -- the main area, packed with apartment complexes, and the outskirts, which remain quite bare. Baek’s special mission is to find harmony and balance between the two while promoting co-prosperity.

Yongin will officially launch as a “special city” on Jan. 13, 2022. The title is given to cities with populations of 1 million, and means it will be newly established with various benefits for the welfare and safety of residents there. Fiscal decentralization is also to be introduced, unlike for ordinary cities.

The Yongin cluster is Mayor Baek’s masterpiece. Baek emphasized SK hynix’s decision to create a semiconductor cluster in Wonsam, Cheoin-gu, saying, “We will do our best to support the success of the semiconductor cluster project so that we can support that the decisions of the government and related companies are correct.”

Baek shared that the central government asked the Metropolitan Area Maintenance Committee to provide special industrial complex goods for the establishment of the cluster. With this, he also shared through a press conference the “Moon administration’s big determination and strong will for business” was to be attributed for the selection of Yongin in becoming the semiconductor cluster, and that he welcomes and fully supports the decision.

Mayor Baek Kun-ki speaks at the press conference for the first anniversary of the seventh popular election. (Yongin City)
Mayor Baek Kun-ki speaks at the press conference for the first anniversary of the seventh popular election. (Yongin City)
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced it would accept Yongin’s request for additional industrial complex support to create the cluster and will review the proposal by the Metropolitan Area Maintenance Committee.

Earlier, the city received a request from SK to secure the support for industrial complexes, including an investment guarantee, in which the city subsequently requested for the special supplies from the Industry Ministry through Gyeonggi Province on the same day.

The ministry officially announced that it would submit a request for additional support to the Metropolitan Area Maintenance Committee on that day, concluding that the establishment of a semiconductor cluster requested by Yongin is necessary for the country.

If confirmed by the committee, SK plans to invest 1.6 trillion won ($1.45 billion) in 4.48 square kilometers of land in Wonsam from this year until 2024.

Further, SK hynix is planning to invest 120 trillion won in 1.98 square kilometers of land to build a four-line semiconductor manufacturing plant in 2022 and to complete the first line early. It is to officially start producing semiconductors in 2024. The rest of the site will have infrastructure established in the area such as roads and parks, along with some 50 partner companies.

Baek said, “We will consult with Gyeonggi Province and the central government to develop a model for smart high-tech industrial complexes with thorough infrastructure so that holding companies will not have any operation inconveniences.”

Yongin City Hall (Yongin City)
Yongin City Hall (Yongin City)
In particular, he emphasized the geographical advantages of Wonsam. It is not only surrounded by semiconductor companies, but is also located close to both North Chungcheong and South Chungcheong provinces. “We will also make efforts to create an environment in which the resulting product and performance of the Yongin semiconductor cluster can spread to surrounding areas,” he added.

Experts expect that once the cluster is developed, it will create more than 15,000 high quality jobs and develop in tandem with neighboring cities, resulting in tens of trillions of won in economic ripple effects.

After the government announced its plan to create a semiconductor cluster through its economic policy directions at the end of last year, many local governments started to plan semiconductor clusters. However, SK hynix chose Yongin, which it saw as the most cost-effective, and as having a strong supply of high quality labor.

Yongin has 85 percent of the country’s semiconductor companies nearby. Due to its communication and location conditions, it has easy access to related companies and has good potential for integrating semiconductor companies as necessary. Yongin is also excluded from the Han River water system, meaning it is free from related regulations and has been able to quietly carry on the project since.

Yongin persuaded the government to locate the cluster in a place companies prefer in order to maintain the country’s advantage in semiconductors over China, with whom it is fiercely competing.

Baek said, ”Under the principle ‘citizens are the mayor,’ we will correct any wrong practices and unfairness, lead future changes and make a leap toward becoming eco-friendly and economically self-sufficient to create a world first-class city.“

”We will head to a bigger sea through the recovery of the local economy, new growth innovation and communication that brings everyone together,” he emphasized.

The plan is to increase urban competitiveness by giving hope to the local economy and building a thorough green network to create a sustainable ecological city, allowing people who are discouraged and distressed from COVID-19 to enjoy a convenient urban environment based on safety and solidarity.

Panoramic view of the central area of Yongin (Yongin City)
Panoramic view of the central area of Yongin (Yongin City)
Yongin submitted a budget bill over 2.56 trillion won, up 4.7 percent from the previous year. General accounts increased 3.8 percent to over 2.2 trillion won and special accounts increased 10.4 percent to 360.8 billion won.

Although the revenue budget including local income tax is expected to decrease due to the influence of COVID-19, it is predicted that the government will expand welfare policies, which could increase government subsidies, property taxes and auto taxes as a result.

Baek suggested that the direction of this year’s local administration is to restore the sluggish local economy, create a sustainable ecological city by establishing a stable green network, protect people’s basic values, improve urban competitiveness by expanding urban infrastructure and revitalize the people’s daily lives and culture.

As for the economic sector, the government will expand the Digital Industry Promotion Agency to the Industry Promotion Agency to support companies in various ways and to respond to prospective changes in industries by promoting the Yongin New Deal, which is connected to the national New Deal project.

A Yongin EverLine subway train passes Yongin City Hall. (Yongin City)
A Yongin EverLine subway train passes Yongin City Hall. (Yongin City)
In order to help startups become self-sustaining, it plans to create venture investment funds linked to government-sponsored projects and triple the issue of Yongin Y-Pay to revitalize local businesses.

In the urban and environmental sectors, over 660,000 square meters of parkland will be built on Gangsan Belt, which encompasses flat central parks, Pogok Urban Forest, Mohyeon Galdam Ecological Forest, Unhak and Hodong waterfront ecological greenhouses and Yubang-dong Green Shelter for Citizens, so that interaction with nature can contribute to social solidarity. In addition, 13 long-term unexecuted parks, which are expected to be effective, will be created without setbacks.

In order to increase trust in tap water, the government will replace old water pipes, install new advanced water treatment facilities at the Yongin Water Purification Plant, introduce a high-tech remote inspection system and expand the water supply to about 2,000 households that use underground water. It also plans to gradually expand the supply of city gas to Wonsam and Baekam by 2022, where urban gas is not yet supplied.

The city will look to make “Shingal Ogeori Urban Regeneration Project,” which was selected for the Land Ministry’s urban renewal project this year, an exemplary case with its differentiated strategies and citizen governance build. Old city areas such as Jungang-dong, Guseong, Mabuk and Pungdeokcheon will be targeted for urban regeneration.

A “Smart City Master Plan” is to be established to increase the efficiency of the city and for efforts to create a safe environment, including ensuring that women are able to return home safely and missing cars can be easily searched for.

In the transportation sector, the bus system will be gradually expanded, starting with village and city buses. With this, the Yongin Bus Terminal, which is in urgent need of safety improvements, will be speedily reconstructed, aiming for completion in 2022.

A study on the extension of the Gyeonggang Line and Bundang Line and the establishment of the Dongtan-Bubal Line was completed as part of the Yongin Railway Network Construction Plan and will be promoted for inclusion in the government plan. Plans for expanding the extended road network, such as the Seoul-Sejong highway and the second Icheon-Osan outer ring highway, will be fully carried out as well.

In order to better care for the socially disadvantaged, nursing officials will be deployed in 35 towns, villages and districts. Health care services for senior citizens will also be expanded based on online health care, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. The government plans to provide new welfare allowances for spouses of war veterans and further plans to build new gymnasiums for the disabled.

To strengthen public education, the government plans to expand free education for high school students of all grades next year and to enhance 186 elementary, middle and high school facilities, while removing any blind spots in child care information by establishing a Yongin child care platform.

Yongin will provide support for future generations’ overdue student loans, distribute housing support for startups and provide for extracurricular activities as a means to revitalize youth rap culture, which began this year.

It will also step up efforts to build a women’s welfare center for the eastern part of the country -- a process that has been slow-moving so far. A project to establish a veterans’ center and a memorial hall commemorating independence from Japan will also see tangible results next year.

The Yongin mayor said, “We strived to include the demands of 1.1 million Yongin citizens and the important values of post-COVID times in this year’s budget plan. Based on the great achievements from the past three years, we will put major projects on track and provide changes that citizens can fully experience.

“With 3,000 public officials I will write a history of hope behind the idea of ‘no sweat, no gain,’ and I hope citizens will also gather strength to go on this path of hope with the belief that single drops of dew ultimately come together to form a vast ocean.”

By Song Donna and Park Joung-kyu (donnadsong@heraldcorp.com) (fob140@heraldcorp.com)
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