Interview with Tang Vui Woon, Project Director of Berjaya Jeju Resort Limited
“This project is the largest single foreign investment in South Korea’s tourism industry aiming to turn Jeju into a free international city in Northern Asia. More than a conventional resort, it is a self-sustaining enclave that integrates vibrant living and a new business platform. We expect that such a new approach will satisfy developers, investors and visitors, as well as local residents,” says Tang Vui Woon, Project Director of Berjaya Jeju Resort Limited (BJR).
Located on the UNESCO Heritage site, Jeju Island is the only self-governing province in South Korea. South Korean government agency, Jeju Free International Development Center (JDC), found that it attracts overseas investors, property managers, tourism developers and investment companies. Berjaya Jeju Airest City is a project undertaken by BJR, a joint venture between JDC and Berjaya, one of the leading conglomerates in Malaysia. It won the “Best Futura Mega Project” of MIPIM Asia Awards 2012 which showcases recognition for outstanding developments in the Asia Pacific region. The architectural design was inspired by a variety of natural environment resources which emphasises the island being part of the World Natural Heritage. A 183.8-acre integrated resort development with a gross development value of US$3 billion (RM9.13 billion), the project was designed with a “creative business leisure city” concept, offering a total of 935 hotel rooms and 1,531 condominium units. Other components include a museum, medical centre, casino, shopping mall, entertainment outlets and villas. It will be the biggest integrated resort development in the history of Jeju Island, which has been awarded the Triple Crown by UNESCO and has recently been selected as one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature. It is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
FuturArc talks to Tang to better understand the motivations behind this mega-scale project and how it plans to achieve a balance between nature and the built structure.
FA: I’m particularly curious to find out how the project team seeks to achieve a balance between the natural environment of Jeju Island, which is a Natural World Heritage site and part of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and such a mega-scale resort project; what considerations have the project team taken into account and what are the challenges that came up in preserving the natural landscape of the site while executing with the project?
TVW: The Korean government and population in general, particularly in Jeju, make a conscious effort to protect the environment and conserve their natural legacy. The masterplan was designed after the formation process of Jeju Island to minimise environmental impact on the island. It is inspired by Jeju’s natural surroundings, taking advantage of the architectural and landscape design. In-depth study of Jeju’s topography satisfies both business and preservation purposes after careful research by professional consultants. Individual buildings are placed along the natural contour of the project site.
FA: What is the main driving force of this project, and why Jeju Island?
TVW: Jeju is an island strategically located at the centre of Northeast Asia surrounded by five mega cities—Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing and Shanghai. A rich pool of market thus made it an ideal location. In particular, Berjaya Jeju Airest City is situated along the southern coast of Jeju overlooking Mount Halla and the South China Sea, adjacent to the popular tourist attraction Jungmun Tourism Complex.
Supportive government, both central and local, was one of the major reasons for choosing Jeju. Various investment incentives offered for foreign investors was another important attraction.
FA: How will the project aim to achieve the triple bottom line—people, profit, planet—to ensure its longevity and sustainability?
TVW: What we plan to create is not an ordinary resort, but a self-sustaining enclave where people can enjoy vibrant living and new business opportunities on the Natural Heritage site. At Berjaya Jeju Airest City, there will be new business platforms through new condominium modules wherein cultural immigrants are able to live on upper floors and operate businesses on lower floors (‘live-work type’), ‘B2B management type’ for small-scale individual hotel operators, and ‘corporation type’ for corporate customers who require specialised facilities for seminar, training, entertainment, etc. In addition, upon completion, it is expected to create some 4,000 jobs. In line with the government’s Green policy, we adopt Green aspects in the planning and design stages with the use of reusable energy, environmentally-friendly materials and construction methods, nature-inspired design and the like. We respect the environment, so does our project, which will then create an enclave where nature is the way of living.