[Sponsored Report] Governor promotes his island, the forum and world harmony

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[Sponsored Report] Governor promotes his island, the forum and world harmony

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Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong

The governor of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Won Hee-ryong, emphasizes coexistence between nature and people on his pristine island and in the government, both local and national.

“The Jeju Forum is about peace based on tackling foreign affairs and security issues,” Won said in an interview before the May 20 opening of the the three-day 10th Jeju Forum. “Jeju is an island of peace that surpasses the concept of humanism -- which can destroy nature for the sake of mankind -- because it is in harmony with pure nature and ecology, valuing life.”

The governor met on May 8 with Ryu Kwon-ha, the executive editor of the Korea JoongAng Daily, at the governor’s office in Jeju City to talk about Jeju’s ambitions in global education, Won’s goal of a governance system based on civilian participation and the current national political situation.

Won, as chairman of the forum’s Organizing Committee, added, “The concept of peace is not just limited to being against war or violence, but the elimination any sort of discrimination against people because of race, gender, religion or politics. Jeju is valuable as a vacation respite that can offer healing, help people find a new lifestyle and recharge them. This is linked to expanding peace through Jeju’s nature, people, culture and unique identity, and that is a message I wish to convey at the forum.”

A former prosecutor and three-term lawmaker, the Saenuri Party stalwart became governor of Jeju almost one year ago.

As he took office, Won pushed his hyeopchi policy, a new type of local governance for Jeju with citizen participation in policy and decision making. He said he came up with the concept as he pondered how to change Jeju.

“What triggers change is the people,” he said. “In order to draw on the innovation of the people for the government, especially in a global era, I thought of a horizontal way of governance to combine the influence of experts and civilians into policymaking. What fell into place was hyeopchi.”

He added, “What I envision is a direct democratic system in which people can participate even more actively and wield authority in the process of policymaking and execution of policy. General governance should not be about the authority of a government agency but an assembly where a group of civilians, experts and other interested persons can reach an agreement through continuous discussion.”

Won noted some difficulties along the way, such as attacking the pattern of lawmakers calling the shots. “When there is dialogue, there needs to be compromise but in the beginning, interest groups were not willing to compromise to meet others’ needs.”

He said there was also a need for bipartisan cooperation in the central government. “There is a tendency for lawmakers to oppose policies simply because their party is not in power at the moment. They reject policies that they might have agreed to had they been from their party. If authorities can work together, unnecessary strife and differences can be alleviated.”

The by-elections last April were a huge victory for the Saenuri Party, but Won said the by-elections were not necessarily an indicator of public sentiment about the government.

“Predicting general elections or presidential elections just through by-election results is dangerous because in by-elections, only people who need to vote come out to vote,” he said. “But general elections put national issues and interests in the forefront; thus it is unclear what demands from the people will move voters for the elections next year, especially when the public’s evaluation of the government’s policies, the economy and the livelihood of the people is not exactly great.”

“The Saenuri Party needs to buck up for next year’s general elections even more than it did for the by-elections, because public sentiment can be more honest and brutal than you think.”

Responding to a comment that as Jeju becomes more global, there is a need to invest in the young generation, Won said that he envisions exactly that through Jeju’s English education hub.

Jeju Global Education City, which aspires to be an English education hub in Northeast Asia, is home to leading international schools such as the North London Collegiate School, Branksome Hall Asia and Korea International School Jeju.

Q. What does the Jeju Forum theme “Towards a New Asia of Trust and Harmony” signify?

A. Regaining trust and reconciliation in the region to untangle the complex web of discord in Asia is the fundamental and most urgent problem here. If cooperation and dialogue in politics or security is not in the macroscopic picture, then there is a need for it to happen in the microscopic sphere, in a more detailed and practical matter, and work up from there. That’s why we chose this theme.

This is the 10th run of the Jeju Forum. What do you expect for the next decade?

The Jeju Forum is in its 15th year and its 10th round. To be objective, the Jeju Forum has not yet reached the level of the Davos Forum [World Economic Forum in Switzerland] or the Boao Forum for Asia [in China]. There are many competing international forums in Korea. But despite that competition, it is rare to see an international public forum that deals with the consistent theme of “peace and prosperity in East Asia.”

I hope the 20th Jeju Forum can be called the Asian version of the Davos Forum. In order to reach that goal, it is important to give the Jeju Forum a definitive identity.

The forum agenda deals with foreign affairs, security, economics, the environment, climate change, gender equality, education and culture. I will also participate in the events and work toward a global Jeju and participate in discussion on hot issues in Jeju, such as tourism and investment.

What is your vision for the Jeju Global Education City and are there any impediments?

First, there is plenty of demand for a global English city. The problem is that the schools’ brands are here, but the schools are currently run by the Jeju Free International City Development Center. So far the foreign schools’ foundations cannot come here and invest and manage the schools because of Korean domestic law. Because an exception to this law has not passed the National Assembly, there is also an issue with the distribution of profits.

Once this impediment is removed, we can advance. The Korean education standard is high and there is great demand to study abroad but a limit to how many Korean families can sustain a foreign education for their children.Studying “overseas” in Jeju, just one hour away from the mainland, has great potential. Studying in Jeju alleviates the economic and psychological burdens of sending a child to Europe or the United States, and is a project that we think will be successful.

Do you have any words for the Park administration, especially after another prime minister has resigned?

President Park Geun-hye has been focused on reviving the economy and overturning old principles, an indication that times are hard and a reflection that people who should be helping out have turned their backs.

Political power is drawing out cooperation or support from the opposing side and from people in the middle, rather than just pushing through by authority alone. The president has to return every day to her promise and intent to achieve 100 percent [of her presidential pledges] and also choose a prime minister who is more reflective of the people and broadens her perspective.

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