Interview: The Mayor of Haeundae
Translation by Y.P. Kim and Hye Jeong Bae | Photos by Matthew Golem
BUSAN, South Korea – Though a native of nearby Changwon, three-term Haeundae Mayor Bae Duk Kwang came to Busan in 1967 working as a tax collector, and has overseen the rapid development of an area that is becoming one of the premiere cities in Asia. His honor sat down with Busan Haps for a talk about what Haeundae was like in the past, and what he sees for it in the future, including his plan to turn the area into a marine sporting ‘Mecca’ and the highly anticipated move of the entire Korean film industry into Haeundae–a move that will bring upwards of 30,000 new jobs to the area.
Busan Haps: Haeundae developed relatively late compared to other major cities in Korea. What was it like before the development?
Mayor: It was like a fishing village back then, with vast pine forests. I’ve lived in Busan quite a long time, but actually back then, I didn’t go to Haeundae. Perhaps this was because I thought it was just a calm resort area with only the beach and hot springs.
BH: Did people not want to live near the beach? Why was it so late to develop?
Mayor: At that time, Haeundae’s infrastructure was not adequate when compared to today’s Busan. It was too dangerous for investors to invest in the area because the environment was very wild and natural, so I believe the growth was later than that of other cities.
BH: In your six years as mayor, what are you most proud of?
Mayor: For the last six years, I believe I have instilled pride in Haeundae’s 420,000 citizens in that they can feel like first-class citizens of the world. I’m very proud of that fact.
BH: Haeundae has 12% of the population of Busan. How important is the economy of Haeundae for the city overall?
Mayor: Haeundae is the leading center of Busan in all areas, including politics, economics, society, and culture.
BH: Are there any new developments coming to Haeudae?
Mayor: I am focusing on making Haeundae the world Mecca for marine sports that people from all over the world can enjoy. We are going to invest 3 trillion won ($2.6 billion) in developing a tourist resort and rebuilding the Suyeong Yacht Club, as well improving Suyeong River, Dong-baek Island, and Song jeong Beach. So, we’re expecting Haeundae to be a global marine sports Mecca that everybody comes to enjoy by 2014. I’m also planning to develop ‘Moontan Road’ (on Dalmaji Hill) to make it a pleasant walking area and a landmark that is superior to Montmartre of France.
BH: The film industry will be relocating completely from Seoul to Haeundae along with the government agencies involved. How many jobs will that create for the area?
Mayor: Yes, that’s true. The ‘Korean Film Council’ is going to come down to Centum City. Moreover, about a thousand related companies will move here, so we predict that approximately 30,000 new jobs will be created. However, what I’m most concerned about is the rise in real estate prices. As you know, it is high-priced even now. The more popular Haeundae becomes, the more housing prices will be increased. Of course, I’m so happy about the fact, but I also feel uncomfortable as a mayor.
BH: Ok, enough business. How about a couple questions about you. What was your first job?
Mayor: My first job was a tax collector. I worked for 30 years doing that and finally I became the superintendent.
BH: When you were a young boy, what was your dream job?
Mayor: I’ve wanted to be a successful public official since I was young.
BH: What do you like to do to relax in your free time?
Mayor: I usually do hypogastric breathing. It’s like a Korean form of yoga.
BH: This issue of Busan Haps is focusing on local art. Do you have a favorite artist?
Mayor: I love to collect Oriental paintings and Korean traditional paintings. Park Saeng-gwang (???) and Heo Baek-ryeon(???) are some of the artists I like.
BH: Here is a tough one. What is your favorite place in Busan other than Haeundae?
Mayor: I think it would be Suyeong where I lived for a long time and Gwangan Beach. Those are the places I think are the most recommendable for tourists.
BH: Any closing statement you would like to say to Busan Haps readers?
Mayor: You know, Haeundae is surrounded by a beautiful river, the ocean, mountains, and hot springs. These are four very precious assets. So, I wish Haeundae would be well promoted by the readers to their friends and family, so that many Europeans and Americans will visit Haeundae and enjoy its beauty.