A mini-miracle in Gumi

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A mini-miracle in Gumi

Gumi is an inland city of North Gyeongsang. Apart from its fame as the birthplace of former President Park Chung Hee, it is geographically isolated and underdeveloped. There is no port or international airport nearby. It received a major setback in 2005 when the region’s major employer, LG Display, moved its assembly lines for large liquid crystal displays to Paju in Gyeonggi after the government eased regulations on industrial facilities around the capital.

The city feared the collapse of its economy following the exodus of its high-technology workforce. But the city has recovered its vitality. Its population is expected to reach 500,000, with 11,000 added last year. The city has helped to increase the population of North Gyeongsang, which has been shrinking for the last 13 years.

Gumi’s power comes from its citizens. Its people united to turn the crisis into an opportunity. To support the LCD assembly lines left in Gumi, citizens started a campaign to buy LG shares. As a result, they hold a total of 207,747 shares in LG LCD worth 6.6 billion won ($5.9 million). The global market trend was also in the city’s favor. Sales of large displays slumped due to sluggish global demand, while demand for small LCDs jumped due to the popularity of mobile digital gadgets. The windfall came from demand for displays for notebooks and smartphones.

LG repaid Gumi’s citizens by investing 1.3 trillion won to build a sixth-generation LCD line in the city. The city also drew capital investment from Japan’s Toray Industries to build a carbon fiber production line. Woongjin Chemical is basing the country’s first reverse osmosis membrane production line in the city.

The city has not offered extravagant benefits to lure capital investment. It was the heart and sincerity of the people that moved corporate investors. Gumi citizens voluntarily send thank-you notes to companies based in their hometown. The city administration selects the best enterprise every month and invites the manager and union head of the workplace to City Hall to encourage and congratulate them. Small efforts have added up to make great difference.

These days, local governments vie fiercely to entice corporate investment and lawmakers fret losing their constituencies due to shrinking populations. Many industrial complexes are empty. Other local governments should learn a lesson from the Gumi mini-miracle. Capital investment and jobs can be created with the united efforts of a local administration and residents.

  경북 구미시는 내륙도시다. 박정희 전 대통령의 고향이란 상징성 빼고는 지정학적으로 열악하기 짝이 없다. 주변에 제대로 된 항구도, 변변한 국제공항도 없다. 구미는 2005년 큰 위기를 맞았다. 수도권 규제완화로 LG필립스LCD가 대형 LCD 조립라인을 경기도 파주로 옮긴 것이다. 첨단 연구 인력까지 빠져나가면서 도시 공동화(空洞化)의 가슴앓이를 했다. 그런 구미가 화려하게 부활하고 있다. 지난해 주민 1만1000여명이 늘어나 인구 50만명 시대를 꿈꾸고 있다. 구미는 13년 연속 인구가 줄던 경북을 단번에 순(純)인구유입 지역으로 되돌리는 괴력을 발휘했다. 무슨 일이 있었던 것일까. 구미 시민들은 2006년부터 똘똘 뭉쳤다. 위기를 기회로 반전시킨 것이다. 구미에 남은 소형LCD 라인을 응원하기 위해 자발적으로 ‘LG 주식 한 주 갖기 운동’을 벌여 20만7747주(66억원 상당)을 샀다. 세계시장의 흐름도 행운이었다. 치열한 경쟁으로 대형LCD가 죽을 쑨 반면, 첨단 소형 LCD는 새로운 시장이 활짝 열렸다. 소형 노트북 LCD가 불티나게 팔리고, 애플에 아이폰용 LCD를 공급하면서 날개를 단 것이다. LG는 구미에 1조3000억을 투입해 6세대 LCD 라인을 세우는 것으로 보답했다. 이뿐 아니다. 구미에는 일본 도레이가 첨단 탄소섬유 공장을 세우고, 웅진케미칼이 역삼투용 멤브레인 생산라인을 짓고 있다. 구미가 엄청난 특혜를 제공한 것은 아니다. 오히려 작은 마음 씀씀이가 큰 감동을 불렀다. 구미 시민들은 자발적으로 고향 기업에 감사엽서 보내기 운동을 벌인다. 구미 시청에선 매달 ‘이달의 기업’을 선정한다. 그리고 해당 공장장과 노조위원장을 초청해 시청 국기게양대에서 함께 사기(社旗)를 올린다. 이런 사소한 정성들이 쌓여 기업들을 움직인 것이다. 요즘 지방자치단체들마다 ‘기업 유치’에 혈안이다. 지방 국회의원들은 선거구가 없어질까 선거철마다 유령 주민을 끌어 모으기에 바쁘다. 그럼에도 수많은 지방 공단들은 여전히 텅 빈 상태다. 지자체들은 구미의 기적부터 눈여겨볼 필요가 있다. 기업 유치와 일자리 창출은 결국 주민들과 지자체가 하기 나름이다
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