Overhaul industrial parks

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Overhaul industrial parks

Coffee shops and convenience stores will now be allowed in industrial parks, as will service providers like call centers. In the past, the parks were exclusive for manufacturing and technology companies. But now, public transportation systems and employees’ residential apartments will expand. The aim is to give a new modern look to the parks that have led the country’s economy for the last half of the century.

Industrial parks have been the foundation of the Korean economy driven by the manufacturing sector and exports. With the first Guro factory complex (now Seoul Digital Industrial Complex) that opened in 1964, over 1,070 industrial parks were active as of the end of last year across the nation. The areas are home to over 80,000 businesses, employing 2.07 million, or half of the country’s work force in the manufacturing sector. They account for 69 percent of the country’s industrial output and 78.5 percent of exports.

Industrial park models are favored in both advanced and developing economies because the cluster model can enhance efficiency. Some of the well-known industrial and technology parks include Sophia Antipolis, southeast of Nice in France, and Sista Science Park in Sweden.

The Korean industrial parks, however, have been losing competitiveness - largely because they haven’t changed with the times. The parks were established mostly in the 1970s and 1980s for textile or original equipment manufacturer industries. Many stand as stark contrasts to newer industrial sites furbished with modern infrastructure and design. It is no wonder young people shun job offers from industrial parks.

In contrast, industrial parks in advanced countries are designed to serve as hubs for research and development connected to commercialization through connection with information and technology infrastructure.

The infrastructure that was designed 30 years ago needs an entirely new makeover. The older zones are congested with traffic and offer few recreational facilities like parks. Coffee shops and convenience stores will be small additional comforts. The government must invest to redesign outdated industrial parks so that they all can pick up life as much as the Pangyo Digital Valley and Seoul Digital Industrial Complex.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 31, Page 30

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