[EDITORIALS]A Welcome Move for Jeju IslandThe government has come up with a blueprint to transform Jeju into an international free port and is hurrying to enact the plan before the end of this year. We welcome the government decision; the idea of designating a region as a model for globalization and promoting active transformation plans has great public support. If the plan goes well, a new international city, like Singapore and Hong Kong, will be born.
Jeju Island has been highly valued for its strategic location in the geopolitics of East Asia; within two-hours' flying time are 18 cities with populations of more than 5 million persons. The natural beauty and the island's small population and economy provide perfect conditions to apply a different system to Jeju.
Now, the problem is how to carry out the national development strategy effectively. Since 1964, six overall development plans and four projects to open a free port have been proposed, but none has been carried out properly. Although the need was urgent, the conditions were not ripe. The plan to establish a free city in Jeju originally aimed to foster the city as a center of logistics and finance in Northeast Asia in line with the open-door policy of the nation. But the first draft of this plan focuses on developing the city as a tourism and resort center. Weak infrastructure hinders the dream of developing Jeju as a logistics and financial center. Even Koreans turn their heads away from the island because of unreasonably high prices and inferior facilities. Language barriers should also be overcome in order to improve the tourism industry there.
The government plan includes experimental moves such as opening a duty-free zone, providing duty-free outlets for Koreans and expanding visa-free entry to more nations' citizens. Since those issues can trigger debates about fairness with other regions, the government should thoroughly evaluate the possible ill effects before implementing the new policies.
Seoul will review its plans next year and begin development in 2003, so the plan should be bipartisan to survive the change of administration.
Environmentally-friendly development is also important, and other steps should also be ones that residents can support. The fruits of development should be shared with people there.