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[Newsletter] Transforming the Crisis into an Opportunity: How Jeju Dealt with the Economic Downturn Caused by the Pandemic


The pandemic hit the world economy hard, causing large numbers of people to lose their jobs and shaking up economies. However, things have been different in Jeju Island. Jeju-based companies wisely overcame the crisis by recruiting more staff and boosting sales. The island has reportedly increased the employment rate by 143% (443 people) while achieving 151% (39.1 billion won) of the target revenue. Such achievements were backed by the island’s past experience, where they faced a large drop in the number of Chinese tourists in 2017 due to the issues surrounding THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). The local government analyzed the characteristics of companies that have wisely overcome the shock and implemented policies based on the result.


Such efforts came to fruition when Jeju Island ranked first in the “2020 Regional Specialized Industry Development Program” evaluation conducted by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSS) in 14 cities and provinces across the country.


This program was designed to support business growth and grow industries in 14 cities and provinces nationally to ensure balanced regional development and facilitate local economies. It makes a general evaluation in various criteria such as the achievement status of goals proposed in the previous year, response to environmental changes, regional growth and support, and exemplary success cases.


Jeju Island received a high score for increasing employment and incomes amid economic hardship, responding appropriately to the pandemic. Also, the ministry assessed the island to have established a data-based support system, including statistic analysis and growth status of companies while achieving a systematic development of local firms suggesting success cases of excellent companies.


During the same year, the Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSS) also conducted the "Regional Plan for the Promotion of Industry 2021" in November, where the island of Jeju received the best rating "S". This implies that Jeju Island's restructuring of local industries by diversifying and detailing their fields such as eco-friendly bio, smart tourism, and green energy, regardless of its poor industrial structure have turned out to be effective.


Jeju Island received 3 billion won incentive as a reward for being selected as the top region in the program. Such an achievement could only be supported by innovative efforts from the local government, from which Jeju Island gathered wisdom and overcame the difficult times with local businesses.