The Changwon industrial complex marked its 40th anniversary on April 1. It was created in 1972 as part of the government's five-year plan for economic development, which envisioned US$10 billion worth of machinery exports and the nation's emergence as an advanced industrial country by the 1980s by strengthening the heavy and chemical industries.
Changwon was picked due to its geographical advantages. A main road was built to bisect the nation's first planned city, separating the industrial area in the north from the residential area in the south.
In 1974, when firms first moved into the city, there were only 24 of them. They suffered from sluggish sales, and amid the global recession following the oil crisis of 1979 some went bankrupt. But on the back of increasing demand for semiconductor chips and VTRs overseas, they made significant progress, manufacturing auto and machinery parts and several high-tech products.
The number of companies in the complex has skyrocketed from 120 in 1980 to 2,410 last year, and their combined sales from W450 billion (US$1=W1,052) to W50 trillion over the same period.
But after 40 years the complex is suffering wear and tear, decreasing productivity and a reduction in the number of new staff. Meanwhile its competitiveness is weakening as the machinery industry in emerging economies like China is growing rapidly.
To tackle the problems, the city last June formed a taskforce to plan another leap forward. The complex was also selected for government initiatives to attract new businesses and human resources by installing better facilities and housing, and to shift the focus from manufacturing to research and development.
Under the initiatives, the Changwon complex will get W850 billion in government subsidies for the next 20 years to carry out about 20 state projects.
The city, along with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, held events to celebrate the complex's 40th anniversary until Friday, drawing over 500 participants. In a speech, vice trade minister Han Jin-hyun expressed hope that the industrial complex will make a rebound to become a model case.
On the sidelines, exhibitions showcased innovative products like robots, various machinery products and military supplies from the firms in the complex, and there was a job fair to recruit workers.