Cultural Hub Jeonbuk Morphs into a Center of Technology
JEONJU, KOREA —Cultural city Jeonju, located in Jeollabuk-do or North Jeolla Province, is emerging as a city of technology. A two and a half hour KTX ride (230km/h) from Seoul bring us to Jeonju, which is famous for Jeonju Bibimbap (one of Korea’s most popular dishes) and home to Jeonbuk Technopark (JBTP). Jeonju, which has nurtured a renowned time-honored food culture based on its rich products, is now a tourist attraction noted for the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) and Jeonju Hanok Village. Jeonju is also called the birthplace of “woodblock printing,” dating back to the Joseon dynasty, and the art of printing has long breathed new life into the city. Jeonju features the Jeonju Sago (the only remaining annals of the Joseon Dynasty that survived Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592), and is also famous for Hanji (the name of traditional Korean handmade paper).
This city, rich in tradition and culture is now charging ahead as a stronghold of Jeollabuk-do industries, designed to progress the regional economy forward. At the center of such a move is JBTP. Jeollabuk-do has established the 2015 Mid and Long-term Development Strategy that factors in regional and industrial characteristics and the roles of JBTP in order to revitalize the region’s economy through fostering strategic regional industries.
JBTP was created to develop strongholds that spearhead the development of regional industries, nurture global companies, support R&D activities, and foster talented human resources. Jeollabuk-do is poised to build cooperative networks among regional industry promotion agencies around JBTP, thereby creating a single window that offers custom-tailored support to companies. By doing so, Jeollabuk-do aims to foster its top 100 companies which will complete Jeollabuk-do’s long term goal of building 10 clusters of strategic industries by 2015.
Jeollabuk-do, blessed with a pristine and nurtured natural environment, has seen its regional economy growing faster than other regions which have previously entered the “knowledge economy” period. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Jeollabuk-do and Jeonju, JBTP is investing heavily in Jeollabuk-do’s strategic industries such as printed electronics, automobiles, radiation fusion technology (RFT), LED, carbon, renewable energy and agricultural equipment.
Jeollabuk-do’s Top 10 Strategic Industries are Very Promising
Dr. Soung-kun Shim, President of JBTP, said, “Jeollabuk-do’s new growth engine industries such as printed electronics, renewable energy and automobiles have enormous potential for growth.”
JBTP, founded in 2003, is operating special centers solely dedicated to the top 10 clusters (printed electronics, automobiles, carbon, shipbuilding & marine engineering, solar power, wind power, RFT, LED, agricultural machines, and food) in order to take these strategic industries to new heights. Special centers that are scattered across the region for balanced regional development include JBTP, R&D Cluster Business Division, Korea Printed Electronics Center (KPEC) in Jeonju; Renewable Energy Complex in Buan, Radiation Imaging Technology Center in Iksan; and Wanju R&D Center and Fuel Cell Core Technology Research Center in Wanju.
As nano-based printed electronics sector, one of Jeonbuk’s strategic businesses, is expected to integrate and grow into a market worth KRW 300 trillion by 2050 by focusing R&D activities on flexible and printed electronics. This highlights the optimal positioning of Korea Printed Electronics Center (KPEC) right next to JBTP. KPEC, run by Korean Electronics Technology Institute (KETI), houses 15 companies including Optowell and LGS. As of now, KPEC is the first center in the world to coinstruct Gen. 5 OLED lighting equipment, so its future moves merit attention. This evaporator was jointly developed by LG, DMS, Sunic System, and SNU Precision amongst others.
Jeollabuk-do, responsible for over 95% of Korea’s commercial vehicle production, is home to Korea’s major automakers including Hyundai Motor Company, GM Korea and Tata Daewoo-Korea and other auto-related companies. Led by auto-related R&D institutions such as JBTP, Jeonbuk Institute of Automotive Technology (JIAT), Jeonju Mechanical Carbon Institute (JMC), efforts to develop eco-friendly vehicles and auto parts and carbon fiber materials are also underway.
Rheoforge, which has attained a high degree of global attention by producing ultra-light aluminum wheels for commercial vehicles, is one of Jeollabuk-do’s leading companies. Rheoforge independently developed a technology called “Rheoforging method” (a semi-solid, metal forging method) which is in high demand in the overseas market. Mercedes, which holds over 40% of the global commercial vehicle market, is one of global companies with its eyes on Rheoforge.
Renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics and wind power is also of interest to JBTP. Jeollabuk-do has set up Korea’s largest solar belt comprised of the Renewable Energy Complex in Buan, Saemangeum and Samsung Green Energy Industrial Park, thereby forming a value chain ranging from OCI (a producer of Polysilicon) and Nexolon (a manufacturer of ingots and wafers) to SolarPark Korea (a producer of modules). In Muju County and western coastal areas, wind power complexes are being established where Korea’s leading wind power companies like Hyundai Heavy Industries, KM and SeAH Besteel reside. On top of this, a world-class wind power evaluation R&D center is located in Renewable Energy Complex in Buan.
JBTP Turns the Tide of the Jeollabuk-do Industry
According to Jeollabuk-do, the first quarter sales and exports of 41 leading companies in the strategic industries were KRW 398.9 billion and KRW 19 billion respectively, up 17.4% and 39.3% from a year ago. In particular, leaders in the auto industry witnessed their sales and exports surge 29.3% and 49.3%. These leading companies in the selected strategic industries are deemed to have great growth potential as a result of their technological prowess. Jeollabuk-do provides these leading companies with support for R&D and global marketing. At the moment, 41 companies are on the list of Jeollabuk-do’s leading companies and the number is expected to grow to 60 by the end of the year.
KRW 3 billion of the 2012 business project budget is funneled into these leading companies’ endeavors to enhance their technological competitiveness. Specifically, the KRW 3 billion fund will be spent on global marketing activities for overseas market entry and production process improvements for better product perfection and R&D. Education for field workers, total managerial consulting, project marketing support, loans from financial institutions, a CEO council and brisk exchanges among the heads of R&D centers in each company will also be supported to nurture these leading companies towards becoming global companies that represent Jeollabuk-do.
Jeollabuk-do is indeed zeroing in on the development of the region’s leading companies. In collaboration with relevant institutions like JBTP, Jeollabuk-do is set to expand its regional business promotion project in stages to help regional companies succeed in the global market.