Fellow Koreans, citizens of Pohang,
I am still laden with regret because the aftermath of the Pohang earthquake has not been completely resolved. Fortunately, the National Assembly passed a bill for a special act regarding the Pohang earthquake at the end of last year, paving the way for accelerating damage relief and reconstruction in earthquake afflicted areas. I will make sure that relevant measures are implemented expeditiously so that Pohang citizens will be able to get back to their daily lives as soon as possible.
I’ve brought good news with me here today: A battery recycling plant will be built in the Pohang Blue Valley National Industrial Complex.
Today, we join GS Engineering & Construction, the Pohang city government and the Gyeongsangbuk-do provincial government to hold an agreement signing ceremony for GS E&C’s investment in the Gyeongbuk special regulation-free zone in Pohang. Over the next three years, 100 billion won will be invested and more than 300 new jobs created. It is the largest investment ever made in any of the 14 special regulation-free zones across the country and also the first such investment by a large business. It will become a decisive opportunity for a new growth surge in Pohang’s economy.
Pohang was where the March First Independence Movement first began in Gyeongsangbuk-do. During the Korean War, it served as the bastion of the Republic of Korea with volunteer student soldiers risking their lives fighting to protect the defensive line at the Nakdong-gang River.
Pohang was the bulwark of the Republic of Korea’s industrialization, cultivating the steel industry with the resolve to return the country’s favor by making steel and underpinning the growth of manufacturing in such areas as automobiles and shipbuilding.
Pohang is a city with potential. I am convinced that it will help the battery industry succeed without fail and make a great contribution to enhancing the Republic of Korea’s competitiveness in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I am deeply grateful to Governor Lee Cheol-woo, Mayor Lee Kang-deok, GS E&C President and CEO Lim Byeong-yong and other relevant officials for making Pohang an optimal destination for investment and responding accordingly by deciding to invest in the city.
Citizens of Pohang,
If steel was the rice, our staple diet, of industries, batteries are the rice of future industries.
Demand for batteries is increasing rapidly because of cell phones, electric vehicles and energy storage devices, and the battery market is expected to grow larger than that of memory semiconductors by 2025. In particular, the production of electric vehicle batteries and their subsequent disposal have become very important given the Government’s plan to raise the proportion of eco-friendly vehicles among newly sold automobiles to 33 percent by 2030.
It is here in Pohang where we find the best conditions for fostering the battery industry. Battery tests can be conducted as often as possible for two years at the Gyeongbuk special regulation-free zone. The zone also has a system that is essential for recycling batteries, including assessing their performance after use, converting used ones for new purposes or extracting reusable materials.
Pohang also has the best capacity for innovation. Pohang is a city of science and technology - the world’s fifth to install synchrotron radiation accelerators - and its Pohang University of Science and Technology fosters the nation’s top engineering students. The city was also designated as a special zone for a small-yet-strong R&D cluster last year, which will help further enhance its potential for innovation.
Pohang is also home to a mutually beneficial ecosystem between large businesses and SMEs and mid-market companies. In cooperation with GS E&C, ECOPRO extracts rare metals such as nickel, cobalt and manganese and supplies them in a stable manner to battery makers, including LG Chem, SK Innovation and Samsung SDI.
Sicell Energy and Peopleworks recycle electric vehicle batteries and supply them to electric bicycle and kick scooter manufacturers.
Pohang will achieve the effect of killing three birds with one stone by fostering promising industries, reviving the local economy and promoting the growth of businesses.
Such an investment in Pohang at this time shows that a provincial region can become a key player in promoting economic vitality if it puts an optimal system in place and enhances its capabilities through regulatory innovation.
Since the special regulation-free zones officially opened in April last year, 84 regulation-related exceptions have been introduced in the 14 special zones nationwide. Now tests related to such new industries as telemedicine, blockchain and the hydrogen economy can be conducted, and innovative industries are being created through the strengths of provincial areas.
By the end of last year, businesses had nearly filled the special regulation-free zones to capacity, and demonstration projects will begin in earnest this year. If local areas and businesses become partners and develop their capabilities together, investments in more local areas will expand going forward.
The Government will further accelerate regulatory innovation while enhancing the strengths of local areas through decentralization.
The proportion of the VAT-based local consumption tax distributed to local areas will rise by 10 percentage points beginning this year, thereby starting the transfer of financial resources to local areas in earnest. If the National Assembly passes both the bill to allow the bundled transfer of administrative authority from the central to local governments in numerous fields and the amendment to the Local Autonomy Act, the autonomy of regional governments and local residents will expand further. –
The Government will increase the budget for technological development and commercialization in special regulation-free zones and further expand the application of regulatory sandboxes.
We will select additional special regulation-free zones this year to enhance the innovative capabilities of local areas and work to create synergy by linking them with national projects. The Government will establish a “one-step model” – a social compromise mechanism that encourages small concessions to take a large step forward – so that a breakthrough in regulatory innovation can be put in place even in the sharing economy and other innovative industries where social conflicts exist.
Fellow Koreans and Pohang citizens,
When the steel mills in Pohang were operating vigorously, the Republic of Korea’s manufacturing grew alongside them. Once the battery recycling plant starts running in the special regulation-free zone in Pohang, our competitiveness in regard to the Fourth Industrial Revolution will also rise.
Innovative experiments are being made and challenges are being boldly met at the 14 special regulation-free zones around the country. I anticipate that the fever in Pohang will spread across the country and help revitalize the national economy together with local ones throughout the year.
We have grown and will continue to grow going forward with the strengths of local areas. The Government will help realize grassroots democracy through greater decentralization and further spur regulatory innovation.
We will create a Republic of Korea that makes a mutually beneficial leap forward together with local areas and the people. I am looking forward to Pohang becoming a source of hope for that leap forward.