[EDITORIALS]Hub plans are a failureThe government has decided to invest in harbors in India and Vietnam in the near future. Although it is a good thing to take part in business around the world, something bothers us. The government is now trying to find solutions in foreign countries because the harbors in Busan and Gwangyang, that the government have developed to be the hub of Northeast Asia, do not seem very promising.
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries says it has been developing the harbors in Busan and Gwangyang as a distribution hub in the region, but the project’s future is becoming unclear as China builds more ports. The ministry also says it is necessary to invest in India and Vietnam.
While our government was hesitating, our competitors have greatly advanced. China established a harbor in Shanghai and designated a special economic zone in Tianjin in Bo Hai, the arm of the Yellow Sea, handling logistics in the Northeast Asian region. In Hong Kong and Singapore, some 200 shippers operate. Dubai has emerged as a hub in the Middle East and will complete building a hub in seven months. The successful hubs have several things in common: Governments have aggressively pursued their construction, there are few regulations and no strikes.
Let’s look at our situation. In 2003, the government designated Incheon, Busan and Gwangyang as economic free zones and presented a blueprint to develop them as logistic and financial industry hubs in Northeast Asia. However, little progress has been made since then. As the government has pursued its policy of suppressing development in the metropolitan Seoul area, the development of the hubs has lost its urgency. During that period, the project was tossed from one agency to another several times and its budget was reduced. Local governments reportedly created discord over the project. It is pitiful that even civil workers think it is hard to develop hub cities under this administration.
The range of regulations have remained the same and some joke that there is no freedom in the free economic zones. Little foreign investment has been made. The government’s promises to attract foreign businesses and create new added value and new jobs for the youth have turned out be empty. The government has no strong willpower and has not institutionalized ways to form hubs. The government needs to re-examine the plan to create hubs in Northeast Asia and think seriously about what to do to survive in the fierce competition among Northeast Asian countries.