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[Opinion] Integration of Yeosu, Suncheon, and Gwangyang

Posted September. 08, 2007 06:55,   


Yeosu in the Jeonnam region has been known as home to a large number of rich people, with thriving fishing, shipping, and distribution industries. Hence the saying, “Don’t brag about your money in Yeosu.” Once a small fishing village, it was transformed into a naval stronghold of the Joseon Dynasty after a naval base for defending the province was established there in 1479. There are several historical sites of Admiral Lee Sun-shin in Yeosu.

After the Yeosu National Industrial Complex was installed, Yeosu became an industrial city as well as port city. The city is currently concentrating all its energy on being selected as the host for the 2012 World Expo.

Yeosu agreed on September 5 to merge with Suncheon and Gwangyang by 2010. As more than 60 percent of its residents support the plan, the three cities are likely to be integrated. If that happens, a new metropolis bigger than Busan and Ulsan combined, with a 700,000 population, will emerge. The city is reportedly planning to further integrate with Hadong and Namhae in the Gyeongnam region. That is an ambitious scheme to remove the distinction between the Yeongnam and Honam regions.

The immediate objective for the integration of Yeosu, Suncheon, and Gwangyang is to be selected as the host of the World Expo. Currently, Yeosu is far smaller than its competitor cities overseas in terms of population size. The three cities intend to sign an MOU for integration before November 27 when the host will be selected. As the World Expo’s effects will equate to 10 trillion won of output growth and the employment of 80,000 people, it is an opportunity that cannot be missed. Gwangyang has POSCO’s steel mill, which is the largest in the world, while Suncheon has long been a famous education city. Therefore, once integrated, they could be an invincible team.

There have been 40 cases of integration of local administrative districts. The Yeosu of today was born by merging Yeosu City, Yeocheon City and Yeocheon County in 1998. Suncheon is the combination of Suncheon City and Seungju County in 1995. Likewise, Gwangyang is the combination of Dong Gwangyang City and Gwangyang County in 1995. Integration is not easy because of opposition from residents and public officials who fear losing their jobs. But, if successful, integration leads to the efficient implementation of budgets, raising the chances for regional development. The Roh Moo-hyun administration’s balanced development plan is good. But the integration of the three cities is the epitome of pursuing enhanced provincial competitiveness.

Lee Jin-nyong, Editorial Writer, jinnyong@donga.com