Paju chosen for $80 million ‘English’ townOne of the campaign pledges of Sohn Hak-gyu, the Gyeonggi governor, was to create an “English Village” in the province, a residential area providing a full English immersion lifestyle.
The Freedom Hill district of Paju, about one hour north of Seoul, near the Demilitarized Zone, was chosen by the Gyeonggi English Culture Foundation’s board of directors for the project.
Construction will begin in August 2004, with the new town set to open two years later. The board cited the area’s culture and educational setting in selecting the city from among 10 candidates; the runner-up was the Baekhyeon public garden in Seongnam, south of Seoul.
Freedom Hill encompasses 25 hectares (62 acres) of land owned by the city of Paju, thus eliminating land purchase costs and helping speed up the approvals and the acquisition of permits.
The intent of English Village is to create an environment for learning English in a native-language setting, thus minimizing the need for people to study abroad. Besides developing English educational programs, discussions are under way to establish a foreign language school for locals.
“After deciding on the site, we are now delving into the specific details of the English town, which has yet to be finalized,” says Jeong Dong-soo of the foundation. “We are still in the discussion process.”
The foundation will invest 96.7 billion won ($80 million) to build schools, sports and culture facilities and sites that simulate an assortment of everyday professional settings.
Plans are also afoot to form a college town, tourism attractions and residential zones for both Koreans and foreigners.
The English Village will comprise three sections: a school zone; a “situation” district where routine visits to the post office and grocery store are conducted in English, and a culture and recreational activities district.
The endeavor is planned to ensure its success through the quality of programs and activities offered in the village, and the quality of the native English-speaking instructors who train the residents.
Jeffrey Jones, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, has been designated as the CEO of the Gyeonggi English Culture Foundation. He will lead this concept, which is unprecedented in Korea.
by Chung Chan-min