In Korea, there is a saying that goes, “Send horses to Jeju, and people to Seoul”. It is no exaggeration that Seoul is home to the nation’s top talents. Given its wealth of highly qualified human resources, Seoul is the ideal place to find R&D personnel capable of developing the next generation of technology, a fact that has not been lost on major companies as they rush to build R&D centers in Seoul to attract and cultivate the workforce of the future. In the spirit of recruiting the best of the best before their competitors do, many companies have already broken ground on the construction of R&D centers in Seoul.
Two of the major R&D facilities now taking root in Seoul are the Magok Industrial Complex near Magok-dong, Gangseo-gu and the Yangjae and Umyeon R&D Special District in Seocho-gu. As of June 2016, 96 companies are in the process of building large-scale R&D centers on lots purchased within the Magok Industrial Complex that the city of Seoul purposes to develop as an R&D growth base. Companies will be moving into the complex starting from the second half of this year (2016), and by 2020, the complex is expected to begin demonstrating in earnest its true potential and capabilities as a cutting-edge R&D industry complex.
Despite the high cost of land within the city, many companies are investing in R&D centers in Seoul in hopes of attracting the best R&D personnel in the nation and world, many of whom are more willing to live and work in Seoul than other cities in Korea.
For most people, even more so for those married with children, their work location greatly affects all other aspects of life. Seoul is the center of culture, welfare, and transportation in Korea, so it comes as no surprise that it is also the most sought-after location for personnel across all industries.
In addition to the comfort and convenience of Seoul from the perspective of the workforce, there are also several key advantages of Seoul from the perspective of companies now building R&D centers in the city. From an industry standpoint, the close connectivity of Seoul allows R&D centers to pursue convergence development between various industries to boost future competitiveness and make quick decisions when collaborating with other departments, including the headquarters of different companies. Seoul is also the biggest consumer market in Korea, allowing R&D companies to directly evaluate the reaction of consumers to their products, technologies, and services.
The name ‘Magok’ comes from the Korean word for ‘hemp’, and, as its name suggests, the Magok district was originally used as farmland. However, major changes were made to the area that is regarded as the last large development site in Seoul, transforming the land formerly filled with rice fields and houses due to Gimpo Airport.
After struggling to create future growth engines, Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) targeted the Magok area and enacted the ‘2020 City Master Plan’ in 2005 and the ‘2030 City Master Plan’ in 2014, both of which sought to establish Magok as a high-tech base and leader of the knowledge industries of Seoul. SMG aims to continue to develop Magok as the next generation of convergence industry complexes by using large-scale land available for development in connection with the Gimpo Airport and Sangam.
The Magok district has a total area of 3,365,000㎡, which is about 1.3 times larger than Yeouido and six times larger than Sangam Digital Media City. When announcing its plans for the district, SMG emphasized that the Magok district—which has the optimal location requirements of leading R&D companies—will be created as a self-sufficient complex complete with residential areas and industrial and recreational parks.
|Bird’s-eye view of LG Science Park||Future site of the ocean engineering research facility
‘R&D Engineering Center’
As of the end of June 2016, 96 companies, including LG, Kolon, Lotte, and E-Land, have completed contracts with the Magok Industrial Complex for the purchase of a total of 460,000㎡ (63%) of the 730,000㎡ complex area. LG, purchaser of the largest lot of approximately 170,000㎡ (53,000 pyeong), announced plans to invest more than KRW 3 trillion to build the ‘LG Science Park’ in the complex by 2020. With the construction of its new science park/research complex LG aims to establish the next generation of convergence technology research complex, led by top research talents from 10 major affiliates including LG Electronics and LG Chem.
|World’s largest fashion research center, fashion Museum, and F&B laboratory|
E-Land, another major company housed in the complex, has already held an official ground-breaking ceremony for its ‘E-Land R&D Center’, a facility dedicated to the research and development of textiles, eco-friendly food materials, and new renewable energy. With the creation of its new center, located on a plot of land 32,099㎡, E-Land purposes to establish an R&D base in the six business areas of clothing, food, shelter, beauty, rest and entertainment, to further its reputation as a global fashion business.
Located only two hours from Beijing and Tokyo through the Incheon and Gimpo airports, the Magok district is the ideal location for one-day business trips to/from China and Japan as well as Korea, making the district perfectly poised geographically to become the ‘economic hub of Northeast Asia’ and a center of international business.
Additionally, the Magok district is well connected to other major cities and is accessible by three subway lines, the Olympic Highway, Nambu Beltway, and Airport Road.
The Magok district is now being developed as a ‘self-sufficient complex’, complete with a ‘living zone’ in which residential areas, research institutes, industrial parks, and leisure areas are all located within walking distance. The complex is expected to welcome a variety of corporate support facilities including hotels and convention centers and amenities including large shopping facilities university hospitals and culture centers, creating a ‘business district with a comfortable living environment’ for increased work efficiency and convenience.
For the added benefit of those working in the complex, a variety of parks and ‘green belts’ will be created within the Magok district, all of which will be connected by a walkable ‘green corridor’. One of the main leisure spaces to be constructed within the complex is the Seoul Botanical Garden, which will measure an impressive 503,000㎡ upon completion. The garden is expected to become a representative park of Seoul in which ecology, recreation, and culture grow and thrive together.
The Magok district plays a pivotal role in industry-academic cooperation and is connected to 810,000 companies and 400 universities. The district’s broad network of top global talents is a key selling point for investors. A recent survey of 150 top American entrepreneurs conducted by Endeavor Insight, a corporate analysis journal in the U.S., revealed that the top three considerations for companies in the selection of a business location are the procurement of talented personnel, a convenient living environment, and accessibility to consumers and suppliers. Experts agree that the Magok district meets all of these key requirements.
By 2032, the Magok Industrial Complex is expected to generate KRW 164 trillion worth of production and 860,000 jobs, making it an extremely profitable and influential future growth engine for the city of Seoul.
Recognizing the district’s investment potential, the Magok district has been very proactive in establishing the infrastructure needed for the construction of the Magok Industrial Complex. A large portion of the land set aside for the construction of the complex has already been sold to leading companies, and major corporations and many promising small/medium-sized companies have already signed contracts to move into the complex.
|Nasser Al-Mahasher, CEO of S-oil signed a contract to move into the Magok Industrial Complex||Bird’s-eye view of the Magok District in Gangseo-gu, Seoul
Developing as a new city for high-tech R&D
To date, two foreign companies—S-oil and Wells Bio—have announced plans to invest in the Magok complex. S-oil, which is in the process of establishing a research institute for the development of future energy, is expected to invest KRW 400 billion to purchase 29,000㎡ of land and hire about 1,000 researchers. Wells Bio, on the other hand, announced plans to invest KRW 15 billion in the purchase of 1,269㎡ of land to develop convergence technology in relation to the biotech industry and electronic engineering.
SMG has been doing its utmost to attract foreign companies to the new complex through various marketing efforts and cooperative exchange MOUs. In addition marketing efforts by the city, foreign businesses officially recognized as high-tech related businesses or industrial support service businesses or those located in the ‘foreign investment zone’ may also benefit from government tax breaks.
Additionally, SMG plans to provide monetary support to businesses investing over a certain amount in the complex and businesses representing new fields of technology that have the potential for significant economic impact. For more information on support programs available for companies entering the Magok Industrial Complex, please contact the Department of Southwest Projects at the Regional Development Headquarters (02-2133-1531, firstname.lastname@example.org).