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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Korea spends 10 billion won on bikes

ENVIRONMENT/POLITICS - South Korea wants to become the leading bike maker in the next five years. Its all part of Korean President Lee Myung-bak's green growth policy, and he is determined to turn South Korea into a leading manufacturer of green technology.

To do so Korea's Ministry of Knowledge & Economy said yesterday that it will be establishing a high-tech bicycle research and development network in Daedeok, South Chungcheong, and will be spending 10 billion won ($7.83 million USD) building manufacturing complexes exclusively for bicycle parts and materials in Suncheon, South Jeolla, and Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang.

President Lee Myung-bak also participated in Korea’s first bicycle festival in Changwon, saying he was confident that Korea would become one of the world’s bicycle leaders in the next five years.

"Korea was a latecomer in automobile manufacturing [too], but after 20 years Korea has become one of the world’s top five [auto] manufacturing countries," Lee said. "Korea may be depending mostly on imported bicycles [right now], but in less than five years Korea will likely be one of the three major bicycle countries in the world."

The Daedeok research and development network will use existing centers including the state-owned Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute to develop bike-related technologies such as satellite navigation systems. The complexes in Suncheon and Yeongcheon will specialize in new materials and parts to make bicycles lighter, yet stronger. The Korean government says it is also considering expanding a subsidy for commuting to work via bicycle to promote their use for transport.

The city of Changwon currently gives 30,000 won per month (about $27 CDN) to workers who commute to work on bicycles for more than 15 days. In theory users could use that money to buy themselves a Pocari Sweat (a drink popular in Korea) or a Powerade every day on the way to work.

The government also plans to increase the number of bicycles available for rent to the public from the current 15,000 to 65,000 by 2011.

The bicycle industry globally is expanding rapidly. According to Global Industry Analysis the market last year was $54.9 billion, and is likely to expand to $61 billion by 2010. In Korea the local industry has fallen behind imported bicycles. Although Korea manufactured 1.5 million bicycles in 1990, in 2007 it only made 20,000 because it is getting a lot of overseas competition.


I lived in South Korea for a year and 3 months, and while there I bought a bicycle (bartered the guy down to 50,000 won and got him to throw in a lock too). I discovered the country was very bicycle friendly, so I see this as a positive move on part of the Korean government.

One of my favourite things to do was to go cycling beside the river in Jeonju, which allowed me to visit one of the Buddhist temples on the far side of the city regularly. Korean rivers often have walking/cycling paths built beside them, along with lots of reeds and flower gardens. I would definitely go back again and tour the country on a bicycle given the opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. I live on Jeju and soon to return home to brave the roads of London.

    I have to say that Jeju is unbelievable for cycle users. There are huge cycle lanes, which are seperated from the main traffic flow, on almost every major road not in a downtown area. This means cycling around the island or across the island is relatively stress-free.

    Of course, I feel this is deserved as when one is in the traffic it is death-defying!!



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