Cisco Takes Over Songdo

Last February*, Cisco and Incheon government signed a MOU for the new Songdo city within IFEZ (Incheon Free Economic Zone). And yesterday, John Chambers met with Korean President Lee Myung-bak, disclosing some details on Cisco's $ 2 bn investment : Songdo will host a major R&D center, but furthermore become a testbed for Cisco's convergent solutions.

From the beginning, the self-proclaimed "U City" / "Ubiquitous City" was to promote new technologies up to a bigbrotherian point, claiming the ultimate convergence, merging all private and professional databases, monitoring everything via CCTVs, RFId, and other tracking systems**... so Cisco seemed the perfect pervasive partner.

Lee Myung-bak appears to open the gates even wider towards the rest of the country, and one cannot help but think about how dramatically times have changed : not so long ago, Korea was doing its best to claim its technological independence from other US Inc. giants (Intel, Microsoft).

But even if Korea Inc. is also investing massively in R&D by itself (ie SK Telecom just announced a 18% hike for 2009 to KRW 1.3 tn / USD 1 bn), the country needs foreign investments more than ever, and Songdo International Business District (a POSCO-Gale International JV) undoubtedly needed some good news following recent defections most damaging to its international ambitions (a few foreign investors cancelling their plans, the international school folding...). Up to now, appartment sales have been a success because individuals speculated on a high ROI. But real estate is a tricky bet these days, and most foreigners prefer to wait and see : OK, this land claimed on the Yellow Sea will soon be directly connected to Incheon Airport***, and the plans look impressive, but you just don't decree the presence of international companies and people.

In the long run, this partnership could prove a turning point for Songdo.

Cisco is making a reasonable bet. Its R&D center will at least draw many companies from the local ecosystem, and with or without foreign newcomers, putting a lock on such an entry point is priceless.

* "
Cisco and Incheon Metropolitan City to Open New Chapter in Globalisation" (20090219)
** Latest "innovation" in home networking ? Samsung connects your automatic vacuum cleaner to your mobile phone : you just invited a friend home for tonight or need to check if grandma's flat is OK ? Open your vacuum's eyes and set it in motion if needed.

*** The bridge is almost completed. Besides, Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul and connects the Capital to Incheon, chose also yesterday to unveil its projected lines for the GTX (Great Train Express), a new underground commuting system : Ilsan-Suseo (46.3 km), Uijongbu-Geumjeong (49.3),... and Songdo-Seoul (Cheongnyangni - 49.9 km).

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