Building a world-class energy hub

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Building a world-class energy hub

The move to establish so-called innovative cities has picked up speed. The new technology hubs are drawing in tenants and apartment complexes are filling up. The cities have been established and it is important that they serve their purpose as incubators and hotbeds for innovation and technology and do not end up as ghost cities. Naju, the innovative city adjacent to Gwangju, South Jeolla, is expected to set an example led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco).

Kepco has moved its headquarters from Seoul to Naju with the goal of creating a research and development network on energy and power resources. It will join up with universities in the region and spend 61.9 billion won ($56 million) to support energy specialists and engineers.

It will also invest 58.9 billion won to build infrastructure in neighboring areas and alliances with startups and small technology companies. It has earmarked 6.6 billion won to promote companies in power and energy fields. It hopes to build a world-class energy hub in the region. Kepco’s experiment can set guidelines for urban planning in the future.

Innovative city planning had been carried out in 10 areas nationwide since 2007. Public companies began to move into those cities starting last year. The city planning caused real estate speculation and complaints from staff of public companies because many had to leave their families in Seoul. Local host companies pressured public companies to limit new hiring to locals. The second development phase for innovative cities will begin this year by incorporating research arms of universities and corporations.

Innovative cities cannot rely solely on public companies. They also must draw in private enterprises and research institutes to generate a stable supply of talent and ideas. For innovative cities to work, they must have a population of 20,000 to 50,000 and serve as technology base like Japan’s Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture. We will watch with enthusiasm as Kepco turns Naju into a world-class energy hub.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 14, Page 26

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