Kia Motors, Samsung Electronics and Kumho Tire, the Big Three companies that have served as the pillars of the economy of Gwangju Metropolitan City for the past 40 years, have fallen upon hard times. Kia Motor’s Gwangju plant, producing the Soul, Sportage and Bongo models, are seeing a decline in production stemming from slumping global sales, while uncertainties mount with its labor force getting combative and the pending court ruling to determine the scope of regular wages. Samsung Electronics’ plant in Gwangju retains its premium line, but it has relocated remaining lines to Vietnam. Kwangju citizens are worried about a Chinese company’s pending acquisition of Kumho Tire.
Amid this situation, an integrated management workshop hosted by the Korea Academic Society of Business Administration (KASBA) at the Kimdaejung Convention Center in Gwangju on Aug. 22 suggested a diverse array of options to boost the local economy by utilizing the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Na Joo-mong, head of Chonnam National University’s Regional Development Research Institute, said the 4th Industrial Revolution will enable technology convergence to enhance productivity and lower production and logistics costs, thus leveling up income and living standards. He said the 4th Industrial Revolution should start with a small-size business eco-system, similar to what happens in Silicon Valley. Like Silicon Valley, he said, things in Korean regional cities will change not only in economic development, but also social changes. An open innovation ecosystem in which innovative entities participate in innovations through interaction in living spaces is a driving force behind the 4th Industrial Revolution. Na dubbed the ecosystem as a “Living Lab” in which economic entities jointly develop technologies and reduce gaps of business stages. Urban communities are not just a living sphere, but also the embodiment of a small industrial system in which commercial production and feedback can be made simultaneously, Na said.
He cited Chichibu City in Saitama Prefecture, which focus on the tourism industry instead of the declining mainstay lumber and cement industries, and in which small confectionery brands collaborate to make the so-called Chichibu City Miracle.
In his keynote speech, Chairman Chang Dae-hwan of the Maeil Economic Daily Media Group, said, “Chances are high that Samsung Electronics, Kia Motors and Kumho Tire will see jobs decline, and they may leave (Gwangju), and the 4th Industrial Revolution should be utilized to regroup.” As the first action plan, Chairman Chang called for the establishment of a so-called Light Green Industrial Complex to support a “self-driving car mecca.” Second, he suggested the construction of an A.I. plant in Gwangju, saying that major plants in Gwangju should be made A.I. factories, one step higher than smart factories.
“If Gwangju Metropolitan City proposes A.I. factory standards to the world, it will pave the way to attract Korean and foreign companies,” said Chang, noting that they do not worry about factory automation, which will reduce jobs, but they should welcome more automated factories to increase jobs. Introducing the “Maegyeong Silicon Valley Forum” held in Palo Alto, Calif., Chairman Chang said the Silicon Valley, attracting manpower and funds related to A.I. and IoT, is changing into an “A.I. Valley.”
The changing landscape of the 4th Industrial Revolution will bring about an explosive job creation. Futurist Thomas Frey, Google's top rated futurist speaker, predicted that 2 billion jobs will disappear within five years, but an explosive growth of four areas — software, 3D printing, unmanned cars and drones — will in return a myriad of new jobs. Most of the new jobs will be unprecedented — never seen or heard before. To name a few, he said, there will be the like of biomimetic robot surgeons and sharing economy consultants. Those who brace for the changes in advance will be the winners of the 4th Industrial Revolution, Chairman Chang said.