[Letters] A need for city competition
The competitiveness of cities is considered one of the most important assets of a country. As such, there are many countries trying to develop their cities so that they may be internationally recognized economic powerhouses.
Incheon is a leader among Korean cities in this field. The various large-scale projects going on in the city have been undertaken in order to attract both direct and indirect foreign investments.
One of the most ambitious of Incheon’s initiatives is the construction of Songdo city. With the city, Korea is attempting to make Incheon an international business hub by creating a free economic zone (FEZ).
Songdo occupies a 13,047 acre area and it is expected to be developed into six main clusters, including an international business center, knowledge-based industry complex, biotech complex, information technology cluster, international academic complex and the new Incheon port area.
We have good reason to have a lot of big expectations for the future of Songdo.
However, there is an obstacle to the area’s success.
With the government’s Capital Region Regulation, not only Songdo but also the Yeongjong and Cheongna regions are having difficulties in speeding up the development process. According to an international FEZ authority, “FEZs are supposed to offer a business-friendly environment as well as favorable tax breaks and other benefits to foreign investors. But not so for FEZs in Korea.”
Internationally competitive cities of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai have been able to succeed through deregulation, which was a key incentive for potential investors.
By providing a friendly business environment, the Korean government will also be able to attract foreign investors to develop its cities. Specifically, the government needs to simplify all administrative procedures to meet the needs of foreign investors. Without deregulation, there seems to be little hope for Songdo.
Compared to other Asian cities, Korean ones in general are not thought of as competitive simply because they are not in control of their national- and city-level economies. Unfortunately, the situation applies to Seoul, the capital of Korea, and to Incheon.
It is time to enhance city competitiveness. Incheon is the gateway to Korea. To enhance and strengthen the competitiveness of both Incheon and Korea, let us hope the Songdo project will be completed successfully.
Songduk Girls’ High School student