The 'Independent Town' initiative, a beautiful challenge that overcomes the crisis
Seogwipo city

The Problem

Seogwipo City is a tourist city which attracted more than 1 million visitors this year and it was designated as Biosphere Reserve in 2002, registered as World Natural Heritage in 2007 and approved as World Geopark in 2010. Despite its popularity as a tourist city, the residents of Seogwipo area resident's per capita income remains very low of 17,139 US dollars (based on '09) than the average Korean national average of 13,593 US dollars. When compared to the national average per capita income, it only reaches up to 79.3%.

Also the population of Seogwipo area is continuously decreasing from 1987 as the cardinal point. When compared to 1987, the population decreased drastically at a rate of 11.5 percent for the last 23 years from 175,773 people in 1987 to 155,504 people in 2010. According to the data released in 2010, approximately 23,990(equivalent to 15% of total population in Seogwipo) aged people are living in Seogwipo area and this figure emphasizes the fact that city has already entered into an aging society.

The industrial structure in Seogwipo area consists of three pillars; a)primary industries 39.0%, b)secondary industries 4.9% and c)tertiary industries 56.1%. However, there has been continuous threats to the local agriculture due to the accelerated opening policy for agriculture sector including WTO and FTA agreement. The farming families in Seogwipo can not defend themselves from these overarching changes. 'How should we interlink the island's unique culture, pure natural resources and local profit making? 'How could we regain the revitalization to our local community?' There has been constant issues aroused about 'In what ways, the Seogwipo community can be promoted as the center of local development?'

In order to solve these problems, the residents in Seogwipo community developed a bond of sympathy to the fact that they need to utilize both the pure natural environment and unique traditional culture to materialize the community-centered town. As a result, they started to put efforts and concentrate on finding the ways to develop their own town as an 'Independent Town.' 'Independent Town' initiative is an on-site centered project where the residents, who knows the area best to take the main role as decision makers in developing their community with natural resources and establishing local development plan. This initiative can be a rather expanded and localized modern version of the Saemaeul (New Community) Movement during the 1970's.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The main outcome from the 'Independent Town' initiative is: a) Transition of resident's awareness, b) Establishing Seogwipolike town and c)Profit making.

Firstly, by participating in the transition of resident's awareness program, Seogwipo residents are now autonomously make changes in their own town. For example, they developed products made by natural resources and operated experiential program related to tourism industry and as a result it has empowered its residents to become the main beneficiary of the profit making. Therefore it is a significant results including; a transition of idea, where the residents learnt new knowledge and technologies and enable them to breakthrough the problems regarding their community, an introduction of informationalization to production technology and its management. As a result, there are already 37 'Independent Town' developed and it is being proliferated to other parts of the region. In addition, Seogwipo city is communicating with other cities by establishing a sisterhood ship with its active communication channel in their own seb site( The communication channels differ from one-to-one and or one-to-all or in other versions. Seogwipo city could inform their customers with accurate information about their regional product and hence it is now increasing the income for the local community.

Secondly, the establishment of 'Seogwipo like Town' is under operating.Specifically, the city developed a carriage-drive by utilizing the unique traditional horse culture of Jeju and its sorrowful tales of horse-tewoori(Jeju dialect for horseman). Also the city is operating programs with strong Seogwipo characteristics such as the Honinji traditional wedding ceremony experience program, where they use the traditional Tamna (Ancient Jeju's name) three differently surnamed ancestors' marriage mythology about the place. Moreover, there is the straw connecting activity originated from Jeju's custom where they had to built straw-thatched roof in order to combat the strong sea wind. As a result, active progressions has been made for abundant regional culture creation, improvement for daily routine environment and restoration of community.

Finally, the most eye-catching fact is that the residents' quality of life has increased due to the 'profit making' result of this program. Discovering the income resource, designating a theme with unique natural resources and production of pure agricultural and marine products accelerated the community's competency. The unique Seogwipo products such as green tea ice cream, dried-radish, black bean tofu and camellia cosmetics that are made from pure Seogwipo green tea, radish, black beans, camellia oil and other items are now contributing to the high income for farming families. By selling these products, the community is making approximately 1,246 thousands US dollars per year. The members of community are now self-evaluating the result and reflect it on their town development planning and their effort gained highly positive comments as it is paving a new way for the community's new growth engine.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
In order to establish the 'Independence Town', the provincial government participated in planning and supporting the project and then the responsibility for practical management was passed onto the community so that it could take a lead in the project. Consequently, the local government took a major role in planning the project, securing the budget and support, establishing a cooperative system with inter-agency. Also they played a key role in take responsibility for developing the customized contents and its operations in real situations.

Seogwipo city played a role as a foothold for establishing the 'Independence Town' initiative plan and building the infrastructure for the 'independence Town'. From 2007 to 2011 Seogwipo city secures 3,675 thousands US dollars and invested the budget into the project. Seogwipo city has also supported establishment of the 'Independence Town' initiative plan and invited export instructors to give lessons on the need for the project, search for resources and improvement on production and distribution. In the participating communities, they were striving to collect various opinions about the establishment of the 'Independence Town' initiative plan from its own members of the community in terms of developing the income earner that is suitable for the current situation of the town. The plan and its development direction was determined by the 'Town Development Advisory Group' on the basis of the collected opinions from the members of the community. The 'Town Development Advisory Group' is a natural-born advisory committee consists of representative of the town, experts and civil servants.

A part from those participants in the advisory group, Seogwiopo city founded a net-working among the public figures who were originally from the Seogwiopo city(in 15 towns, with 225 public figures). The members of this net-working group actively participated in income earning activities like marketing, advertising and etc. In addition, a community group called 'Maeulhoe(Town community)' is operating regional product production and distribution as well as experiential tourism programs by themselves.
Maeulhoe has long been taking a role as adjusting body of the 'Independence Town' initiative for its agriculture and fisheries cooperation, improvement in economic life and consent of the community members' various opinions. This committee consists of 15 to 30 residents in the area. This kind of traditional Maeulhoe is in the center of the resident-driven operation of 'Independence Town' initiative and they are implementing their initiatives successfully.

As shown above, the 'Independence Town' initiative project is running under three major bodies; a) the members of the community, b)experts and c)administration. To achieve the materialization of improvements in income and quality of the life through mutual relationship, the community and its residents are doing their best to fulfill their role.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The 'Independence Town' is a process where its residents form their own community by themselves and foster their competency through utilizing the area's unique resources to establish the development plan.

The first task is the accelerating program for development competency.
Despite the unsatisfactory level of community members' awareness of citizen autonomy, the Maeulhoe successfully conducted 9 'Independence Town initiative' joint workshops with 950 participants and held 6 hopeful project seminars called 'Town visiting seminar' and these educational opportunities made a great contribution in improving the community's autonomy competency. In the whole process of the discovery of the problem, investigation for alternatives, establishment of plan, implementation of plan and its evaluation, members of each community are actively participating.

The second task is the establishment of 'Independence Town initiative Plan' which will lead to the resident's income rise via the town's original and unique resources. It is crucial to draw up a plan to connect the towns tangible and intangible resources into a profit-making business. In order to achieve this goal, the community is now pushing forward the implementation of their plan with leaders from the 'Town Development Advisory' and trying hard to gather all the opinions from their residents.

Finally, the administration has examined thoroughly on the related policies and provide financial support to strengthen the foundation of the independent towns. In order to support some independent town with lack of human and material resources, the administration reorganized the priority for the resource distribution. Also the administration has earmarked funding for work rooms, sales shop, production machinery and now constructing these facilities.

Also it is important that the administration plays a significant role in encouraging each independence town to enter various town initiative projects(Building a liveable community, building an agriculture and fisheries experience town and the comprehensive development project for rural area) that were put out by the central government. Thus, they will be able to win extra budgets from the central government to cover the limited budget. The central government secured 31,670 thousands US dollars and provided it to 11 projects including the honey production facility, the artist support center and building a music town in Wolpyung area.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The building foundation project for regional development called 'Independence Town' initiative went through 3 core stages. The first stage is building a firm system basis for the independence town initiative. It is also important to escape from the conventional attitude of relying on the central government and establish resident-driven 'Independence Town' development plan. As a mean to achieve this goal, the community is now carrying out special programs such as the residents awareness education and training program, focused initiative on the discovery of excellent towns, finding specialty resources and an open forum with experts. The second stage is making a connection between resources in town and residents' income rise. In order to create the higher value-added agriculture and fisheries products and promote increased income from the vitalized tourism, the independence towns have established the urban and rural exchange center and set up the sisterhood ship between 1 company and 1 farm house. Also they are striving to promote 12 specialty brands and constructing a new marketing system.

The final stage is to promote leaders for each independence town and secure human resources to expand the population of people returning to farming in this area. Without a devoted leader, a sustainable growth of independence town can not be guaranteed. Therefore in order to strengthen the initiative of town leaders, the towns are making efforts for benchmarking other excellent towns and participating in central government level leadership education.

Also it is crucial to entice the influx the returning to farming population to give a vitality to the towns. Therefore in 2011, the Seogwipo city hall established 'Returning to farming information support' department and helping their settlement in the area. They are also building database for people returned to farming, publishing settlement manual and offering settlement academy for newly arrived people.

According to the agriculture, fisheries and forestry census result released from the National Statistical Office in 2010, the age group of 40's and under 15 year-old group has demonstrated increased population in Seogwipo area. There are 17,260 people working in farms and this figure is 12.8% higher than the data collected in 2005. Also the age group of under 15 increased 3.6% from 2005 and recorded 18,535 people. This phenomenon explains the success of the 'Independent Town' initiative and clearly reflects the increased vitality of the towns. Also these participants are playing a key role in hosting the talented work force for the 'Independence Town' promotion and now contributing to the agricultural win-win development in the agricultural industry.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
In order to successfully lead the 'Independence Town' project, restoration of confidence among residents, creative natural resources development and building the sustainable drive force system had to be preceded. The restoration of confidence 'Just do it' was the major obstacle. The city hall's effort to switch the residents understanding began with informing the other regions successful cases to the residents and provided variety of educational programs. Through town visiting education programs, they invited experts in building independent town to give lectures and by learning other region's experience, Seogwipo people started to improve the problems and expanded their own advantages. Also extra workshops and debate were help to entice the native residents in the area. However, there has been another obstacle appeared in the development of natural resources that is suitable for each town. It was a difficult task to discover resources in the neighborhood of each independence town and the city hall needed clear and exact diagnosis of each town's strength and weakness. By consulting the residents, who know their town in every inch and by inviting experts, the initiative plan for 'Independence Town' was finally established.

As a result, the city hall obtained natural resources like water lilly, camellia, Jeju horse and Honinji(marriage place) which made great contribution in increasing the income.

The last essential point is that the city hall builds the stable foundation for sustainable operating system. Seogwipo has already conducted educational session and field trips for the leaders of the town.(2 field trips with 40 participants) Thus, the city hall concentrated on promoting and nurturing leader for implementing the plan and secured the sustainability by forming local cooperative body. In addition, through establishing a Seogwiopo-born public figures networking and constituting an advisory committee, these efforts maximized the effect of the 'Independence Town' initiative plan.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
For the 'Independence Town' initiative, many departments within the city hall and its budget was injected and they also reorganized the administration body. Seogwipo city established 'Town building' department, as the administrative department, which will play the main role in mediating the policy making process and policy planning process for the 'Independence Town'. In addition, they provided their full supports and endless patience too. Also Seogwipo formed an intermediary organization which will be promoting the independence towns in Eup and Myeon level area very at the front. consequently, this organization played a role as a bridge which connects the town and the administration in an effective way. The onsite supports for the towns were reinforced by adopting the pursership in each town. Seogwipo was playing a role as a powerful supporter, who established related policies and earmarked the budget for each Eup, Myoen and Dong level towns. They also provided supports for the towns by monitoring the policies and give information so that each town can succeed in efficient policy implementation. The budget was carefully assigned to the towns which has submitted their own independence town initiative plan after a close examination on each application's effectiveness, feasibility and its possible affect. Seogwipo city provided budgets for experience venues, production facilities, trails and programs that contains experiential and cultural activities. For the last four years, Seogwipo has been promoting independence towns by injecting 3,675 thousands US dollars for 37 towns.

The initiative of 'Independence town' enabled many towns to settle down as a special town with distinctive characteristics like ecology experience town by using the closed-down schools, sea-village experience town, green barley theme town, pictorial map town, Jeju native horse's original town and camellia town. According to the Performance Analysis in 2010, these towns earned 1,246 thousands US dollars.

The 'Independence town' initiative is a very promising plan as it has many potential both in short-term and long-term outcomes. In that sense, this initiative will achieve magnificent results like increase incomes for rural villages, creation of jobs, improvement for town environment and encouragement of pride when continuous attention is paid to these towns with a future-oriented perspective.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The 'Independence town' is a sustainable initiative as its residents' participation will always precede beforehand. In other words, even if the support from Seogwipo city stops, people can continue their business with well-constructed infrastructure and their own income from the independence town initiative.

For Seogwipo city, the 'Independence town' initiative is a preparation process for future. Seogwipo city is now envisaging ideal image of its future with a town that creates sustainable income, a town that provides work places for young people and elderly, a town with full of charms which lures city population to come, a town that is capable of solving compelling issues by cooperating with residents and administration.

The 'Independence town' initiative is an worth trying challenge for any other regions as it utilizes its own resources. When one's perspective is shifted from the conventional tangible resources such as stone wall, animals and plants to the intangible resources like mythology, culture and art, it is possible to regenerate and reinvent these intangible resources into source of income for the independent towns.

Let's assume that there is a developing country suffering from poor environment and that there is very rare species of stag beetle living in the area. Then, they could form a by using that stag beetle as a theme. Construction of stag beetle observe trail, declaration of stag beetle reservation and furthermore, this developing country can create a revenue-model by developing products like stag beetle cap, stag beetle shoes and stag beetle ornaments.

As mentioned above, the 'Independence Town' initiative can be an essential example for developing countries. Also it has an infinitive potential as it enables a small village to create its own economic foundation and seek independence of their own town. Furthermore, the norm of 'Independence town' is established based upon a premise of openness. Openness can be a very effective factor when transfer it into other regions.

Seogwipo city hopes that this 'Independence town' initiative can be spread world-wide as it has a new perspective on seeing different regions and has the strength to reinvent a small town into a very effective 'Independence town'.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Due to the rapid industrialization, various kinds of changes can be seen. Especially, the population decrease in rural area, aging society, polarization of income gap between rural and urban area are the compelling issues of today.

Although sympathizing the ever changing trend of our society with others, many towns are improving their survival and capability with unique idea and the shifted recognition of 'We can do it' attitude.

The best solution to recover the town in deep economic depression caused by the downfall of primary sector is the 'Independent town' initiative and its promotion. The development of natural resources has accelerated the potential value of the towns and improved its competency. It will be a meaningful attempt to create own income resource for each town especially in the age of limitless competition. The independent towns are developing experiential programs based on their natural resources and putting their utmost effort to change their whole town into the resource of income by transforming it to an experiential learning place. Also through this community revival campaign, the local society is now giving hopes to socially and economically underprivileged population. It will be an inspiring phenomenon to witness the inflow of urban population to rural areas as the most usual cases in olden days were people leaving their hometown and advance into cities.

As this paper has discussed above, the promotion of 'Independent town' initiative is a desirable choice for the future prosperity. Therefore Seogwipo city is making its first step to awake the challenging spirit and the latent potential of its citizens by cooperating with them and improving their quality of lives.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Seogwipo city
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Jong-pil Chung
Title:   Planning action officer  
Telephone/ Fax:   +82-64-760-2192 / +82-64-760-2199
Institution's / Project's Website:,
Address:   105 Jungang-ro
Postal Code:   697-701
City:   Seogwipo city
State/Province:   Jeju Special Self-governing Province

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