Forward thinking

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May 25, 2013 by rkpcs

Friday 24th May was another opportunity for the team members to discuss aspects of their professions first hand with people employed in the same line of work in South Korea.

The first visit of the day was to speak to a lawyer from a law firm in Suncheon City – one of only about 300 lawyers in the whole county of Jeollanam-do! Lucy was keen to discuss matters including the current testing of the jury system taking place in South Korea, the death penalty (which, as previously mentioned, is still part of the legal system) and issues regarding potential access to justice including the methods and financial implications associated with obtaining legal advice.

Next was a visit to Gwangyang Police station where the team met with the Station Chief. This allowed Ed the opportunity to speak to the chief about various policing matters including the main objectives of the police and further details regarding a nationwide campaign to tackle domestic violence, school violence, sexual offence and food safety. Other topics discussed included police carrying firearms (the police in South Korea are routinely armed), the importance of good public relations and how this has been achieved over recent years. The meeting also allowed Lucy to ask further questions regarding whether or not the police as an organisation ever get sued (which seems to be an extremely rare occurrence) and the legal advice available to them if this happens.

After lunch it was time for the team to visit Gwangyang City Hall where they met with the head of the department for social welfare. Here the team learned how the social welfare programme in South Korea is being developed and expanded to offer support to the most vulnerable members of society including the elderly and families with young children – with all welfare benefits strictly means tested. The team were also fortunate to have a meeting with the Chairman of Gwangyang City Council and Sulina was able to seize the opportunity to discuss the different functions of national and local government in South Korea, the major functions of Gwangyang City Council, the decisions the mayor has taken during his three terms in office and how the city council communicate with the public.

Following these vocational visits there was still time for a visit to the Yeosu Gwangyang Port which is the second largest port in South Korea and plays a vitally important role in the import and export of goods and raw materials. A key example of this can be found at the Posco Gwangyang steelworks, located next to the port. The team visited this site and were given a very interesting guided tour – although taking photographs was prohibited!

Founded in 1968 Posco is now one of the three largest steel producers in the world. All the raw materials are brought in from overseas via the port and 70% of the steel produced leaves via the same port. The huge steelworks at Gwangyang, which has largely been built on reclaimed land, is the world’s largest producer of steel for the car industry – approximately 10% of all new cars in the world are built with steel from Posco’s Gwangyang site. The 6200 employees of this steel works have the option of buying houses at a discounted rate in a nearby town built by Posco where 16000 people live including current members of the workforce, retired former employees and their families. Other benefits including competitive pay and free medical treatment mean that most employees stay with the company for their entire career. What really struck the team about the steelworks was the fact it had all been created so recently (the vast majority of the site being built within the last thirty years), out of nothing (the land the site is based on is literally man-made) and the fact that South Korea doesn’t even possess natural deposits of Iron ore! Despite these issues this site is now an established bustling steelworks – the result of hard work, government investment in the economic future of the country and real forward thinking. At a time where a lot of projects in the UK seem to be half baked quick fixes with short-term benefits often outweighed by long-term drawbacks this approach really does feel like a breath of fresh air – even if it was first established 45 years ago! Posco isn’t a company standing still either, it has also branched out into many other business areas including large scale construction, renewable energy solutions, engineering and IT projects and clearly has its eyes fixed on a horizon of future success.

The evening meal was a chance for the team to thank the host Rotarians for organising this wonderful day, full of useful and interesting visits for all team members – the team are very grateful for their time and effort. It was also a chance for the team to start again saying goodbye to new friends who really have hosted us so well and made us feel so welcome. On Saturday 25th May the team will be moving on again – this time to the districts of Suncheon and Gure.

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Time until the team returns

The adventure ends...May 31st, 2013
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