KOWACO Strives for Global Top 3
Water Resources Corp. by 2011
In pursuit of new water resource development through sustainable management
The Korea Water Resources Corporation works to not only assure a stable quantity of water resources, but also to give more weight to water quality and the environment when dealing with water management and pursuing new sustainably managed water resources developments.
KOWACO President Kyul-Ho Kwak in a recent interview with NewsWorld said, "As a public corporation, KOWACO must now undergo continuous change and innovation in order to ensure survival. I will make every effort to transform KOWACO into a corporation renowned for its competitive edge and loyal employees. We will successfully achieve this goal by aggressively sourcing and providing the services our customers and the public want. To this end, I and my staff will implement continual improvements and innovation through the expansion of R&D investments and the integration of geographical information system (GIS), information technology(IT) and environment technology(ET) and other technologies.
The result will be a company that is globally recognized for its ability to operate and manage water resources facilities at levels consistent to those of our peers.
KOWACO will continue to expand and develop water resources supply facilities while complementing water control and anti-disaster steps against unusual weather changes. The corporation will also strengthen competitiveness of waterworks by integrating multi-regional water supply system and local water supply system, he said.
"KOWACO will accelerate efforts to expand its global water market share by capitalizing on its technological prowess, experiences, excellent manpower and sound financial standing, as demonstrated by its own development of Water-K, a software management system for integrating tab water supply and waste water treatment,"President Kwak said.
He stated further that the water resources field should be fortified so that the nation can continue to head for the world and the future. Investments and development of this sector must be unceasing as it directly reflects on the ability to be nationally competitive and on the welfare of all Koreans.
"KOWACO is currently ranked sixth globally with KRW 1.5 trillion in sales and we have set becoming a global top three water services corporation early in the next decade as our goal. Accordingly, the corporation currently aims to increase new business arenas, such as local water supply management improvement projects, waste water treatment and overseas water resources projects to 50 percent of revenue by early next decade. KOWACO aims to grow into a world-class corporation, with KRW5.5 trillion in sales by 2011,"he said. The following are some excerpts from his interview.
Question: Have you always been interested in the water area?
Answer: I have been engaged in water-related duties for most of my 30 year-long career as a government official rather than due to my concern over water. I started my career at the Water Control Department of the Construction Bureau at the Gyeonggi Provincial Government, and then moved to the then Construction Ministry, the predecessor of the Construction and Transportation Ministry to carry out duties including tap water and waste water treatment, and flood control management.
While serving as director-general of Water Supply & Sewerage and Water Quality Management at the Ministry of Environment, I played a role in the establishment of policies providing a foundation for water management and the enactment of a special act regarding the management of the main four rivers in Korea. This directly pertained to the water management legislation for each river system.
As a result, I may have been made aware somewhat earlier than most that water is a key resource in peril and that it is essential to manage water resources in a more efficient manner. I have developed a certain level of expertise essentially because I have devoted my entire life to the field of "water" Basically, water is the area that I have continually been exposed to through my academic and professional endeavors and thus it is a subject which I have consciously, carefully and thoroughly considered.
Q: What areas do you focus on in making KOWACO a global corporation specializing in water management?
A: As a public corporation, KOWACO must now undergo continuous change and innovation in order to ensure survival. I will make every effort to transform KOWACO into a corporation renowned for its competitive edge and loyal employees. We will successfully achieve this goal by aggressively sourcing and providing the services our customers and the public want. To this end, I and my staff will implement continual improvements and innovation through the expansion of R&D investments and integration of geographical information system (GIS), information technology (IT) and environment technology (ET) and other technologies. The result will be a company that is globally recognized for its ability to operate and manage water resources facilities at levels consistent to those of our peers.
KOWACO will continue to expand and development water resources supply facilities while complementing water control and anti-disaster steps against unusual weather changes. The corporation will also strengthen competitiveness of waterworks by integrating multi-regional water supply system and local water supply system.
The corporation will accelerate efforts to expand its global water market share by capitalizing on its technological prowess, experiences, excellent manpower and sound financial standing, as demonstrated by its own development of Water-K, a software management system for integrating water supply and waste water treatment.
Future, We will make all work procedures customer-oriented while also ensuring ethical management practices, based on objective criteria and transparent procedures, are followed. Additionally, KOWACO will firmly establish itself as a corporation actively seeking to make contributions to benefit society as a whole.
Q: KOWACO is paying more attention to local water supply management system. Would you elaborate on implementation projects and future plans?
A: I firmly believe that people have the right to consistently receive running water services evenly regardless of where they live or what level of income they have. However, the reality is that this has not been the case in some areas. In urban areas, water is made available at a lower price, while water services in some rural districts are in frequently poor condition. To help resolve this imbalance KOWACO has undertaken the management of small- and medium-sized local water supply facilities in provincial areas so as to enhance management and investment efficiency.
In addition to the local water supply systems in Nonsan and Jeongeup cities, the corporation has recently been entrusted with the management of those in Yecheon county and the city of Sacheon. KOWACO has recently inked an MOU with about 30 additional local autonomous bodies concerning the management of local water supply systems.
Even though related laws need to be overhauled and the unique characteristics inherent to each local autonomous body make implementation a challenge. The corporation plans to have 110 local water supply facilities commissioned by 2009 in a bid to increase the management efficiency and competitiveness of the domestic tap water industry.
Q: Frequent conflicts with environmental organizations over an issue of securing water resources have developed in the past. How do you address this issue?
A: I'm well aware of the fact that environmentalists have been critical over such water resources projects as the Hantan River Dam and Geyongin Canal as well as the Don River Dam in Yeongweol. A paradigm shift, thought by many to be a natural social development, has resulted in giving more consideration to the natural environment and ecosystem rather than to economic efficiency. The ends no longer justify the means.
For Korea, a resources-poor country, striving to join the ranks of advanced countries, development is requisite. In a nation where a large population and extensive industrial facilities are concentrated in a very limited area, environmental preservation, which is closely related to the quality of life, should be a non-negotiable national priority. With this in mind, any conflicts should be addressed from the perspective of mutual benefit rather than allowing an acrimonious relationship between the sides representing the environment or development. For example, faced with circumstances where water demand is continuing to increase, restrictions on the developing of surface water may lead to the overuse of underground water, which in turn may lead to more serious environmental problems.
The primary requirement for resolving conflict is to sustain the interested parties?participation and to foster better communication through ongoing discussions. KOWACO will work to find resolutions to all related problems based on the principles of open participation and democracy.
Q: I've heard that KOWACO has issued a report on its sustainability management. What's significance of releasing the report?
A: Up until last year, the corporation had issued an environment management report designed to compile the outcomes of environmental management efforts for each year. Beginning with this year, the corporation has come to publish a sustainability management report so as to convey economic, environmental and social performances to all involved parties in the most effective manner.
KOWACO has become the first public corporation to have its sustainability management report certified by a third party, and has submitted it for registration to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) under the jurisdiction of UNEP.
I expect the report to serve as the most effective tool to communicate with the interested parties. Opinions of the interested parties could become not only a major index for pushing company wide sustainability management, but also a source of an enforcement force.
Now that corporate brand and reputation are considered the most valued assets of each corporation, the sustainability management report is expected to contribute to enhancing its credibility.
Q: All the people are supposed to benefit from water. What social service activities does your corporation conduct in this regard?
A: Running water services are not available for about 5.2 million people, accounting for 10.6 percent of the nation? population.
As a public corporation that has put into practice a cause to share love, KOWACO set its 2004 social service activity target of having all the people benefit from running water services. The cause calls for sharing evenly the water benefits by making the most of its water management expertise and experiences.
Cases in point are the ?ater of Love' 'Water of Hope'and 'Water of Life'projects. The Water of Love Project refers to a campaign of providing large water tanks and bottles of potable water to people suffering from a shortage of water in case of emergency against such natural disasters as typhoons. Under the Water of Love Project, the corporation recently sent bottles of potable water to the Pakistan area devastated by a strong earthquake.
Under the Water of Hope Project, the corporation has already installed water treatment facilities at 100 primary and middle schools which depend on unsanitary underground water for this year. KOWACO plans to raise the number of beneficiaries to 500 by 2007.
Under the Water of Life Project, the corporation has operated desalination facilities to supply potable water to residents in coastal or island areas that suffer from a shortage of water resources and cannot afford to run facilities.
Q: Despite the corporation's diverse publicity and enlightenment activities, people do not recognize the importance of water. Would you comment on this issue?
A: Korea has grown into the global top 11 economic powerhouse in a short period of time. Water resource facilities such as dams and multi-regional water supply system have been expanded on a continuous basis to meet a rising demand in water resources. As a result, the nation has secured a stable supply of water resources, whereas in reality, the public concern over the significance of water has been weakened.
In spite of the lower public concern, water still remains important and work on water management has not dwindled. KOWCO not only provides a stable quantity of water resources, but also now gives more weight in dealing with water management in water quality and ecological aspects and pursues new water resource development though sustainability management.
In response to new circumstances and environmental changes, the corporation needs to diversity publicity channels and work out differentiating public relations strategies.
Staying away from the past's one-sided enlightenment and publicity method, the corporation plans to push a publicity strategy of encouraging customers and people to voluntarily participate and put into practice sustainability water management.
Q: It is imperative that the water resources sector should continue to draw investments. Would you say about your corporation's future?
A: The water resources field should be fortified so that the nation can continue to head for the world and the future. Investments and development of the water resources sector should not stop in that the field is directly related to how to raise national competitiveness and the welfare of people.
KOWCO not only assures a stable quantity of water resources, but also now gives more weight in dealing with water management in water quality and ecological aspects and pursues new water resource development though sustainability management.
KOWACO, now ranking sixth globally with 1.5 trillion won in sales, strives for a leap into a global top three corporation by 2010. To this end, the corporation aims to raise the portion of such new business arenas as local water supply management improvement projects, waste water treatment and overseas water resources projects over 50 percent by 2010.
KOWACO aims to grow into a world-class corporation with 5.5 trillion won in sales by 2011. nw
A picturesque view of the multi-purpose Buan Dam in Buan, North Jeolla Province which was constructed in December 1996.
KOWACO President-CEO Kwak Kyul-ho