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Yongin aims to become most welfare friendly city

Yongin in Gyeonggi province -- home to Everland and Caribbean Bay, South Korea’s most popular amusement and water parks -- has been highlighted as one of the fastest growing cities in the country, setting up 27 industrial complex centers, including Yongin Techno Valley that has nearly completed construction.

Yongin Mayor Jung Chan-min
Yongin Mayor Jung Chan-min

The 1.02-square-kilometer Yongin Techno Valley alone is bringing in some 750 companies to the industrial complex as a high-tech hub, expecting to create 7,000 jobs and leading to economic benefits of 890 billion won ($814 million), according to the city.

Now, the city with a population of 1 million is determined to achieve more, aiming to increase the birthrate and social welfare support for the disadvantaged, as well as boost job creation, Yongin Mayor Jung Chan-min says.

Since Jung took office in 2014, Yongin has been rebranding itself as a welfare friendly city, promoting the welfare of residents especially in the areas of prenatal and parental care services to increase the birthrate. For starters, the city is offering educational classes and job opportunities for soon-to-be mothers.

“Yongin is a city of taegyo (which translates to parental, prenatal education), and is set to widen support to promote childbirth,” Jung told The Korea Herald.

The support includes one-stop services from pregnancy to delivery for women, as well as childbirth grants and caretaker services for both mothers and infants.

The support program is also part of the city’s measures to become the most family-friendly city in the country and promote work-life balance for all working parents, which led to the city being recognized for such efforts by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in 2015.

Yongin’s gender-equality support packages that include parenting classes for young fathers as well as taegyo classes have garnered public support across the country, the city said.

The “Jummarella soccer team” (a portmanteau of “ajumma,” a middle-aged woman, and “Cinderella”) for middle-aged women is another of the city’s measures to support women’s participation in the workforce and empower their rights. A total of 32 teams made up of 671 residents in the city participated in the Yongin City Jummarella Soccer Festival last October, which has been held annually since 2014.

Along with welfare and gender-equality policies, the city was awarded by the Gyeonggi Province government for implementing the best housing, construction policies and deregulation measures in the province.

Yongin City Hall, once criticized as overly luxurious, is now a recreational area for residents here for activities such as indoor swimming -- the pool was visited by some 300,000 people last year -- and snow sledding.

For education, the city has been renewing aged school facilities and offering extra curriculum activities for students whose families cannot afford to send their kids to expensive private educational institutions.

The city was once the country’s most indebted city. Last year, Jung declared that Yongin was officially debt-free, thanks to years of belt-tightening.

“In the 3 1/2 years since I took office as Yongin’s sixth elected mayor, the city has overcome decadeslong problems to become one of the leading metropolitan cities with 1 million population,” Jung said.

Last year, the city paid off 812 billion won ($691.7 million) in debt principal and interest payments in the past 2 1/2 years under Jung’s administration. That was two years ahead of the planned schedule, the city said.

The city is set to embark on key measures to make it a better place to live, including investing in public and private sectors such as welfare and education, with sound financial health, according to the mayor.

Yongin, a city with a 600-year-long history, is also home to ancient structures such as the Simgokseowon Confucian Academy, while attracting foreign tourists to such popular travel destinations as Yongin Agricultural Theme Park, Yongin Natural Recreation Forest and Hantaek Botanical Garden.

By Bak Se-hwan and Park Joung-kyu (sh@heraldcorp.com) (fob140@heraldcorp.com)
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