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A Korean Neighborhood Success Story

Posted September. 04, 2006 06:51,   


Mayor Nam Yoo-jin of Gumi in North Gyeongsang Province can’t help holding his head a little higher when he meets other local government heads.

The biggest problem for these local chiefs, the decreasing population, has little to do with Mayor Nam.

Some cities are being forced to close down newly established districts due to a decrease in population. These cities are struggling to bring their population back up, using measures such as childbirth benefits, but so far they haven’t been very successful.

Contrastingly, the population of Gumi is showing an increase of 100,000 a year. The population, which was around 340,000 in 2001, is nearing 383,000 as of July this year. The population growth for this year is already 8,000.

The city that is most sharply in contrast with Gumi is Masan in South Gyeongsang Province. Famous as a free export zone, Masan’s population was 505,600 in 1990, more that twice the population of Gumi (203,000).

A close look at the reason these two representative industrial cities of high growth period in Korea going two different ways tells us that “whether or not the city continues to evolve to provide jobs” is the answer.

Director Kim Dong-tae of the Masan Planning and Economy Bureau says, “Businesses have to try to create new jobs and the government and people have to support the businesses. But this didn’t happen.”

The Rebirth of Gumi –

A mobile phone parts company in Gongdan 2-dong of Gumi, BPS, recently hired 60 employees. They needed more people because of a new item they have developed recently.

Founded in 1990, this company has had approximately 30 employees up to now.

CEO Kim Chil-am (50) who recently built a new dormitory to prepare for the new employees, said, “If we obtain the high-tech manpower we need for research and development, we will be able to employ more people.”

The biggest reason for the continuous yearly growth of the population in Gumi is revitalization of local businesses. Since the opening of the Gumi Industrial Complex in the 1970s, the economy of Gumi has continued to grow for nearly 40 years based on electronic communications businesses. Now facing the IT era, the core businesses are being upgraded.

boriam@donga.com manman@donga.com