|The ruling People Power Party's candidate for North Chungcheong Provincial Governor Kim Young-hwan explains about his lake park pledge during a press conference at the provincial government's headquarters in Cheongju, May 24. Newsis|
Rival parties promise to improve the interior region's infrastructure
By Ko Dong-hwan
Candidates from two major parties running for the North Chungcheong Provincial Governor seat in the June 1 local elections have each come up with a bandwagon pledge to innovate different parts of the region's infrastructure. The ruling People Power Party's (PPP) Kim Young-hwan bet on developing lakes as new tourism bases, while the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea's (DPK) Noh Young-min promised to introduce subway lines in one of the province's biggest cities.
Kim on Tuesday unveiled his pledge to establish clusters of parks around different lakes scattered throughout the province in order to upgrade the sites and offer them to the public as the region's new tourism zones. He said the bid was to connect areas near lakes and shape the clusters as new lake parks.
"Many people recognize North Chungcheong as the country's only province without sea," Kim, the former minister of science and ICT and the former special advisor to President Yoon Suk-yeol when he was President-elect, said during a press conference at the provincial government's headquarters in Cheongju. "We need to think outside the box and change such recognition to something better, like 'North Chungcheong with lakes,' rather than without sea."
Kim eyed different areas in the region to form four separate clusters of parks throughout the province, each with a unique theme. He said Chungju, Cheongpoong and Danyang Lakes in northern North Chungcheong can be clustered as one huge park that centers on "history and nature," while Gwesan Lake and a series of mountains in the province's middle region can be clustered as another park that specializes in forest healing and organic products.
Cheongju, the biggest city in the province that skirts Lake Daecheong, can become a pivot for a new park that fronts Cheongnamdae ― a popular destination flanking Lake Daecheong which exhibits pastime resort houses used by former presidents of the country ― as a new global tourism hotspot. Kim said he will mitigate regulations currently placed upon areas near Lake Daecheong as well as introduce a nature theme park near Cheongnamdae to promote it on an international level.
Pathways around Lake Daecheong, which flows in a zigzag formation to meet Keum River in southern North Chungcheong, and Mount Songri can also be clustered as another major park that will center on Korean traditional music, or "gukak," and fermented foods, a major category of Korean traditional foods, Kim proposed.
"I will make North Chungcheong a new tourism destination where visitors spend nights and money," Kim said. He added he will also seek ways to extend the stay of tourists in the province by subsidizing their travel costs.
He said the province's local specialty products and agricultural produce will be promoted to visitors and tourists to ramp up local farmers' revenue. "My pledge wouldn't be financially feasible if it were solely up to North Chungcheong," said Kim. "If I become the governor, I will do my utmost to get the central government to allocate the necessary budget to our province."
|The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea's candidate for North Chungcheong Provincial Governor Noh Young-min speaks during a meeting with journalists at the provincial government's headquarters in Cheongju, May 24. Newsis|
Noh, on the other hand, proposed introducing new subway lines in Cheongju in response to what provincial residents need the most. He called his new transportation pledge "Cheongju-Seoul 2050," meaning Cheongju residents can get anywhere inside the city within 20 minutes and downtown Seoul within 50 minutes. Cheongju is some 130 kilometers south of Seoul.
Noh, the former chief of staff under the Moon Jae-in administration, said he will make pan-regional train routes that will also include Cheongju as a new stopover. The bid, according to Noh, will grow the city into a Chungcheong megacity with more than 1 million population, as well as expand the population in the city's greater region to more than 2 million.
"The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is currently studying local regions as to how to expand the existing train routes across Chungcheong region," Noh said at a press conference on Tuesday at the provincial government's headquarters. "I will use my political ability and human network to their maximum extent to see that the ministry passes the routes through Choengju."
He pledged that the train routes will pass through Osong District in western Cheongju to the city's international airport in northern Cheongju, which, in effect, will stimulate urban development both above- and underground. He said the development will include building five to six subway stations within the city, making the city the country's sixth local authority with its own subway system.
"My goal is to emulate the lucrative business premiums as witnessed in Gangnam District (southern Seoul) and adapt it to future subway station areas in Cheongu," Noh said. "Express Bus Terminal Subway Station in Seoul, where a large-scale underground shopping mall is connected to a subway station and bus terminal, is a good example."
Noh said the population in Cheongju, together with adjacent Jeungpyeong County in the province including foreigners in both cities, already amounts to a population close to 1 million. "The city, in fact, already has enough demand for a subway system."
Besides his subway plan, Noh previously announced on Monday that he will retract and redraw the Cheongju city government's plan to introduce a rehabilitation center for alcoholic patients because of growing concerns from local residents.
Kim also said he will shut down the international martial arts masterships that the provincial government previously hosted because of mounting criticisms that the events were not cost effective and failed to create global popularity. The first event was held in Cheongju in 2016 and the second in Chungju in 2019, respectively costing 7.6 billion won ($6 million) and 12 billion won, funds which were drawn from the provincial budget.
According to KBS's public opinion ratings survey conducted on North Chungcheong residents on May 20-22, 49 percent of respondents supported Kim and 40 percent supported Noh. Another survey conducted by Ace Research on May 20-21 also showed Kim outpaced Noh in support ratings 52 percent to 38 percent.