South Korea will welcome “Little Netherlands” in Hyundai’s Seosan based reclaimed land.
The Netherlands will design the first “Netherlands”- a themed village in South Korea. It is tentatively named “Little Netherlands” and will focus on innovative sustainability in food, agriculture, and culture. Under the upcoming master plan, different Dutch companies, technologies, and attractions will be introduced in the 20-ha village by 2023.
Hyundai Seosan Reclaimed Land
Seosan reclaimed land is the only reclaimed land developed by the private sector in Korea. In 1970s, President Chung-Hee Park asked the Hyundai group to reclaim the land to secure more farming land. At the time, the Korean government didn’t have enough budget to tackle food shortages and hunger problems. Even though it was not an economic project for a private company like Hyundai, it was carried out and finalized. Today most of this land still belongs to the Hyundai Motor group, although some of this land was sold to farms in recession time when Hyundai faced financial challenges. Hyundai recently developed parts of the land as a car-testing road for Hyundai Mobis, an affiliated company of Hyundai Motor Group. At the Korean Ministry of Agriculture (MAFRA) request, Hyundai Motor Group will develop around 100 ha of this land as a hi-tech agricultural cluster, as compensation for using the farmland for non-agricultural purposes car-testing road. Hyundai has divided this area into a hi-tech agricultural district and an agro-tourism section; The agro-tourism district is for the “Little Netherlands” village, and the hi-tech agricultural district is for farms, offices, and innovative agri-food companies. In 2021, the Netherlands embassy signed two Memorandums of Understanding with the Hyundai Group and Korean consortium to facilitate the development of the Little Netherlands and a high-tech demo farm at the agricultural district.
For developing the two districts, Hyundai Motor group’s appointed project manager, Mr. Nam-Hoon Kim, turned to the agricultural department of the Netherlands Embassy in Seoul for advice. After months of deliberation and discussions, the project team adopted the idea to develop the area as “Little Netherlands,” considering the theme “agriculture” and scenery in the Seosan reclaimed land resembling the reclaimed landscape in the Netherlands. In the discussions for the development of Little Netherlands, looking for a company with a multi-disciplinary creative company with experience in design and development, the Dutch company NorthernLight BV was introduced by Mr. James Park, president of NorthernLight Korea. The project team had closely kept in touch with NorthernLight BV for the contents and design of “Little Netherlands.” In the first outgoing business delegation since 2020, the project team and Mr. Hojin Kang, Senior Agricultural Advisor of the Netherlands Embassy Seoul, visited the Netherlands in September 2021. The project team met with NorthernLight BV and potential partners during the visit. Having signed the contract with Hyundai’s project team for developing the master plan for Little Netherlands, Mr. Peter Slavenburg, president of NorthernLight BV, and his team visited Korea in November 2021. They discussed the master plan with the Hyundai Motor Group, Seosan municipal government, investors, and the Netherlands Embassy in Seoul during this visit.
The Little Netherlands
The total area of Little Netherlands is around 20 ha. The Little Netherlands aims at a Dutch village focusing on innovative sustainability in agriculture, food, and culture. After consulting with several Dutch potential partners, NorthernLight BV and the project team divided the area into “Little Amsterdam” and “Little Giethoorn.” Little Amsterdam targets the younger generation and hip adults, focusing on Dutch modern and digital lives. The Little Giethoorn, on the other hand, has the polder feel and targets families and active seniors who want to experience a peaceful Dutch landscape. Visitors can enjoy (exclusive) Dutch foods such as fairtrade chocolates, veggie meat, animal welfare cheese, organic stroopwafel, and non-GMO potato. Like the World Horti Center or Tomato World in the Netherlands, a hi-tech demo farm will be built to demonstrate the high-tech Dutch horticulture for a broader range of visitors. To materialize this, in January 2022, the Top Sector Horticulture and Starting Materials granted funds for a seed money project. Wageningen University and Research Center, together with the embassy of the Netherlands in Seoul, and the project team will work together to carry out the seed money project. The Little Netherlands will also include farm-experience facilities, restaurants, flower gardens, and indoor playgrounds. As expected, Dutch cultural symbols such as art, windmills, and Dutch canals are included in the master plan. The project is expected to be completed by 2023 or early 2024.