The Chinese government is working hard to create a manufacturing center for Chinese companies and a Chinese commercial district in Muan, South Jeolla Province, a farming region in the southwestern part of the country.
China's Chongqing city and Shandong Province are spearheading the investment drive, while nearly 300 Chinese businesses, including automaker Sinotruck and the country's fifth-largest home appliance maker Hisense Group, have expressed intentions to set up facilities in Muan.
The 17.73 million sq. m Korea-China international industrial complex will include a manufacturing zone, a Chinese commercial district and an international university. The project is planned for completion by 2025 at a cost of W1.76 trillion (US$1=W1,273).
I was interested to learn that Muan is sister city of Taizhou in China, a city of 5.7 million. Muan is one of those places you easily forget about because there's not much there, but it has been the capital of Jeollanam-do since 2005. There's a big project underway to turn the village of Namak-ri into a city of 150,000 by 2019, and this development is no doubt related. You can read all about those ambitious plans here, plans which include "Creation of Changpo Lake Natural Habitat Park," "Accommodation of Health & Recreation Theme Park," "Creation of Mass Shopping Mall Complex," "Development of Sun City Demonstration Complex at Namak New Town," "Branding Project for Muan County Onions," and many other things. The article continues:
China chose Muan for its location. Much of the region is farmland so land is plentiful and cheap. Muan also has the only international airport in southwestern Korea (Muan International Airport), with flights of just an hour to Shanghai, an hour and a half to Shandong Province, and three hours to Chongqing.
The Muan International Airport opened in 2007 and is one of Korea's many airports operating at a loss. I'm reminded of a line in an article I read last week:
Discussions on merging Gwangju and Muan airports will likely gain speed, but local governments in South Jeolla Province and Gwangju are expected to put up a fight.
The government will look at offering domestic users of Gwangju Airport alternative means of transport such as the bullet train before making a final decision to transfer its domestic flight services to Muan Airport, Chung added.
My unsophisticated opinion is that these development projects in small places like Muan and Haenam are just a way to spread the wealth, but I really don't see the point in building a new capital of Jeollanam-do when cities like Mokpo and Suncheon are already there, or building a new international airport in southwestern Korea so far away from all the major population centers. On the Muan website I see that the population is 63,293, down from 311,523 in 1969 when Shinan formed its own county.
The Chosun Ilbo article quoted in the beginning also has a paragraph about the social impact:
Many Chinese people from Shandong Province have already settled in Muan, opening Chinese restaurants and other businesses. If the complex opens in 2025 according to plan, the rural region, where farmers now account for 70 percent of the population, would transform into a Chinese business stronghold combining elements of manufacturing, finance, tourism and education. It could also mean the creation of some 37,000 jobs and W2.4 trillion in production.
Wikipedia points to a January, 2008 article and says that this "Enterprise City" will include "a Chinatown for expatriates." In June the Chinese Consulate became the Chinese Consul-General, and a press release said that there are 36,000 Chinese people in the jurisdiction of the Jeollas and Jeju. If this plan does get off the ground, it turn into a Chinatown different than that in Incheon: the one in Muan will actually have Chinese people.
Interestingly, Muan is also constructing an "America Town" (무안미국타운) designed "for overseas Koreans living in the U.S. who wish to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland." It sounds dreadful. The purpose is:
* Creation of an English Town to provide English tutoring and hands-on studies to regional students
* Vitalization of the regional economy through increased population, enhancement of the county's image, and promotion through the creation of the American Town
* Strengthened regional competitiveness in the era of globalization through the acceleration of regional development by systematically promoting tourism, education, and cultural projects in connection with the birthplaces of Baek Ryun Ji and Cho Eui Seon Sa, and the Doripo Coast within our region.
Sounds like a blast. Manufacture a faux-ethnic community for the purpose of teaching English and giving the locals something to stare at.