Friday, October 22, 2010

Interview: Mr. Oh Se-hoon, Mayor of Seoul City

Over the past couple of years, Seoul Metropolitan Government has been working to make this city a favored destination for the international business community. The city has the advantage of a highly-educated human talent pool, high-tech industrial and social infrastructure, and information and transportation networks.
Excerpts of interview with Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon:

>>Over the past four years, Seoul has joined the ranks of the ten most global cities in the world. This achievement was possible based on the two-dimensioned governance of enhancing the citizens' quality of life and reinforcing the city's competitive edge.
-By creating over 738,000 new jobs and building a tightly-knit social safety net, Seoul could act as a sturdy pillar for the people even in the times of global financial crisis.
-By further purifying its natural environment, Seoul has raised its citizens' level of satisfaction in life.
Seoul's atmosphere has been at its clearest since it has been observed in 1995.
By creating more cultural and leisure spaces such as green fields and water parks around the city area, Seoul has provided an opportunity for its citizens to enjoy a pleasant day out in the open air without having to go outside the city.
-Through an innovative system reform, Seoul has been able to decrease the gap in wealth between the poorest and richest sectors in the city. Four years ago, the richest sector had 17 times more wealth than the poorest sector, now the discrepancy is down to 4.5 times.
-For two consecutive years in 2008 and 2009, Seoul was voted 'the city that most people want to visit' by the Chinese, Japanese and Thai people. It was also awarded the UN Public Service Award for three consecutive years.
Seoul was a finalist for the UN Public Service Award in 2008 for its Cyber Policy Forum. It won first prize in 2009 for the Seoul Water Now System and Seoul City`s Oasis and in 2010 for its Women-friendly City Project and Hope Plus Account.
-Creativity Governance, SHift, Women-friendly City Project are among some of the thirty-plus projects implemented by Seoul over the past four years that has caught the attention of the international society. These projects have already been benchmarked by other regional governments, the central government, foreign municipal governments and private businesses.
- In particular, according to a research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Seoul's competitiveness in the international society has risen from 27th in 2006 to 9th in 2010.
However, we will not be satisfied with this. By furthering these achievements and changes of the past four years, we are aiming to turn Seoul into one of the top five global cities in the world, beloved by both its citizens and the world.
- First, in addition to the five welfare projects that were implemented since the last electoral term for those in need, Seoul will expand its welfare net comprehensively into other social areas such as education, housing, daycare, culture and health.
In the first place, as an investment for Seoul's future, we will reinforce the public education sector and a custom-made daycare system.
- By expanding parks in residential area and water parks by the Hangang, we will work to turn Seoul into an even more pleasant and attractive city.
By building parks within a five-minute walk from all residential areas and cultivating the mountainous areas within the city, we will turn Seoul into a 'city within a park.'
Also, by creating cultural and leisure spaces besides Hangang, we will open the gateway to the West Sea (Yellow Sea) and rediscover hidden values of Hangang.
-In addition, we will focus on promoting new high value-added and growth-driving industries that will support Seoul in the future such as tourism and convention business, digital contents, design, fashion, finance and R&D.
We will continue to create a global city environment where global talents can gather to live and work with passion
>In order to become a global city where foreigners want to live in, the most basic requirement would be easy communication. Plus, there should be an attractive level of services such as education, medical care, culture and public services.
Seoul's globalization project was started in 2007. For the last four years, we have strove to create a 'communication' environment and a foundation for a comprehensive lifestyle of transportation, medical services, education and culture for foreigners to enjoy without any inconvenience.
- For example, Seoul Global Center provides services in seven languages including English, Chinese and Japanese, in helping foreign citizens in their everyday life. The center helps foreigners in daily tasks such as setting up mobile phones, bank accounts, credit cards, acquire driver's licenses and extending their visas. Further more, the center provides legal counsel in dealing with tax and labor issues.
- Seoul has designated seven parts of the city as 'Global Village Zones' as they are heavily populated by foreigners. These zones include Yeonnamdong with a big Chinese population, Ichondong where many Japanese live and Seorae Maeul where the French in Seoul are usually found. A 'Village Center' is established in each of these zones, acting as a public service center for the foreigners.
- Whenever a foreigner has a question concerning Seoul, he or she can dial '120' and get answers in five languages including English and Chinese. For medical emergencies, one can dial 1339 and be given information in three languages (English, Chinese and Japanese) about the nearest hospitals and pharmacies as well as medical facilities providing foreign language services.
If we continue to implement these projects in good faith,
- Foreign investors, foreign workers, international households and foreign students will be provided appropriate service and support so that foreigners and Seoulites alike can live in the city without any great difficulties and Seoul will become a beloved global city.
In particular, in order to build a city where Seoulites and foreigners can enjoy life without any difficulties, we will provide utmost support for international households -households where at least one of the family members are originally from outside Korea- to settle down and live comfortably in our city.
>Tourism is an industry that increases income and creates new jobs like no other industry. That is why so many advanced countries in the world are so intent on promoting their tourism industry.
- Seoul is also competing with these advanced countries and cities to promote our city as a tourist destination. We have been focusing on tourism as one of our major industries and have been concentrating on city marketing and attracting tourists since the last term.
As a result, Seoul's charm as a tourist destination is growing as can be seen in the fact that it was voted the place that most people want to visit for two consecutive years in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. In January of this year, it was ranked third by the New York Times in a list of 'places to go in 2010.'
According to a survey done by Seoul, 90.4% of the foreign tourists visiting Korea have visited Seoul. Their level of satisfaction in Seoul as a tourist destination is rising every year, from 79.1% in 2007 to 91.2% in 2010.
International tourism industries are also beginning to acknowledge Korea and Seoul as places one must visit.
- In July, 2010, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences ranked Seoul 9th in a list of competitive cities.
- From 2008 to 2009, a AC Nielson survey showed Seoul was voted by the Chinese, Japanese and Thai as the place they wanted to visit the most.
- In January, 2010, New York Times ranked Seoul 3rd in a list of 'places to go in 2010.'
- In 2010, Seoul was designated the World Design Capital and a UNESCO City of Design.
In recent years, due to efforts led by Seoul to reform the visa system, a basis to tap into the Chinese tourist market, the biggest potential market of such in the world, has been formed.
- Also, Seoul is working at the moment with the central government on a legislation to expand tourist accomodations. If this law is legislated, it will improve the situation of accomodations for the growing number of tourists, providing new accomodations for reasonable prices to tourists.
Based on these achievements, Seoul is reinforcing its marketing overseas and developing diverse high-end tourist package products such as medical tourism and conventions. On the other hand, it is expanding and educating tourism-related staff and developing digital applications for information on Seoul tourism in order to make tourists feel more at home.
- In the past, tourism was mostly about enjoyment: appreciating the nature, relaxing and enjoying leisure time. Now, it's about experience: tourists want to experience culture and history, they want to attend exhibitions and conventions and participate in high-tech events.
- Tourism is becoming more integrated with other fields such as industry, history, culture, fashion, medical care, city design and architecture. Seoul will continue its efforts to develop diverse tourism policies according to this trend.
Seoul is aiming to become the best city in Asia to do business, tourism and shopping.
- In order for tourists visiting Seoul to relax, sightsee and shop at their ease, we will increase our accomodations, exhibition and convention facilities as well as shopping centers.
- At the same time, we will focus on developing integrated tourism packages connecting tourism with all other major industries of Seoul, such as design, information technology, R&D and exhibition/conventions.
- By making use of these tourism resources, Seoul will continue to market itself enthusiastically to potential tourist markets such as China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.
>Seoul is working in close cooperation with the central government in actively implementing its low-carbon, green growth policy. It is leading various related projects that are appropriate in the city's particular situation.
Enhanced achievements through an effective implementation of the central government's green growth policy.

-About half of Seoul's buildings are over 20 years old, meaning that there are a lot of energy being wasted. (Buildings take up 60% of all the city's energy consumption and 64% of the city's gas emission.) That is why Seoul is implementing a Building Retrofit Project(BRP.)
Since 2008, this project has been implemented first in the city and district government buildings and other public buildings. Similar projects in the private sector are being endorsed through a loan.
> By 2009, BRP on 76 public buildings and 50 private buildings, a total of 126 buildings were completed.
> The goal by 2010 is to implement this project on 18 firehouses and 100 private buildings.
At the C40 Summit Meeting held in Seoul last year, Seoul announced BRP as its representative project and the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) designated Seoul as a leading city in BRP.

-Lighting takes up 21% of Seoul's entire energy consumption. By distributing LED lighting, which has a longer life and higher energy efficiency, Seoul is trying to reform the lighting situation.
In hand with the central government's LED lighting plan (to equip 30% of the public buildings with LED lighting by 2012 and 30% of private buildings by 2015), Seoul is planning to equip 100% of its public buildings with LED lighting by 2020 and 80% of the private sector by 2030. It is also encouraging the use of LED lighting in new construction and BRP projects.
> A total of 18,333 lights in both government and private buildings have been changed to LED by 2009.
> By 2010, 6,963 lights from 14 buildings are to be changed to LED.

- Seoul is concentrating on supplying hydrofuel, solar and geothermal powers as appropriate new and renewable energy sources for the city. (The city's usage of new and renewable energy was 1.7% in 2009). Through policies such as making renewable energy usage compulsory for big energy consumers like buildings, Seoul is hoping to increase its renewable energy usage to 3.5% by 2014.
By 2009, solar and geothermal power is being distributed to 116 buildings.
Seoul is concentrating on hydropower, which is seen as appropriate for densely populated areas like the city. In May, 2009, it build the Noweon Hydrofuel Station of 2.4MW scale and in this September, it will build another 2.4MW sized hydrofuel station within the World Cup Park.
Also, in accordance to the central government's '1 million Green Home' project, Seoul will encourage households to use private hydrofuel batteries, bring the number of such households to 100,000 by 2030.
In particular, the 11,353 households in the Magok Development District are to get 56.5% of their energy from biogass, hydrofuel and reused resources.

-There is a simple, immediate and effective way for green life to take place without additional facilities or technologies. It is for citizens to voluntarily save energy, water and gas. Seoul has been implementing the Eco-mileage System since September 2009. This is an incentive system that pays the citizens back as much as the greenhouse gas emission they've worked to decrease.
By the end of this August, a total of 290,670 establishments (270,270 households and 20,400 organizations) were participating in this system and Seoul is trying to get 1 million establishments to participate by 2014.
In the future, buying eco-friendly products and using public transportation will also earn participants mileage points and these points will be used as cash when using public transportation or public cultural facilities.
Seoul style Green Policy

-In order to combat air pollution and climate change, Seoul is leading the way in distributing eco-friendly green cars. It is working towards the central government's aim to become one of the world's fourth largest green car nations and for the four years of the mayoral second term, Seoul will provide 30,000 green cars and 8,000 charging stations around the city. To encourage citizens to use green cars, Seoul has recommended the central government to provide financial support to households buying green cars and businesses establishing charging stations.
Groundwork for a Neighborhood Electic Vehicle(NEV) to take to the streets has been completed by this April including designating roads for possible passage.
25 NEVs are currently being used park patrol cars and public vehicles.
Development on electric buses has been completed in partnership with the manufacturer to the stage of test driving in this June. Fifteen of these buses will be operating by the end of this year and 53 charging stations will also be established for these buses.
Work on electric cars, hybrid buses and electric taxis are also undergoing.
228 models of two-wheeled electric vehicles with low levels of emission will be distributed by the end of this year for demonstration and if yielding positive results, 50% of motorbikes used for delivery in the city will be replaced by these vehicles by 2014.

-A voluntary program where citizens are encouraged to leave their vehicles behind for one designated day a week has been implemented to save energy.
About 76% of Seoul's air pollutants and 27% of gas emission comes from vehicles.
The No Driving Day program is a voluntary program as never found in a city before. It was started in July 2003 and some 1 million cars (about 40% of the relevant cars in Seoul) are participating in it.
The central government has also acknowledge its effectiveness and is expanding it to other cities around the city with a population larger than 500,000 from 2011.

-In order to reuse the metal resources from disposed household electronic appliances and to dispose of the appliances in an eco-friendly manner. Seoul has started a 'City Mining Project' business since June, 2009.

Since the creation of a SR Center last December until this August, 1,572 tons of disposed household appliances and 426,000 mobile phones were treated. This center also created 61 new jobs, 49 of which went to the social needy.
After Seoul's example, the government cabinet meeting decided to establish a similar plan in August, 2009 and a plan to reuse disposed metal resources was established this March by the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security also set up a "Regional Plan for the Reuse of Disposed Metal Resources" and have cited Seoul as an example to cities around the country.

In order to teach the importance of environment conservation to elementary school students, the future generation of the city and to expand a lifestyle of low-carbon and green growth, Seoul is developing and distributing education courses and textbooks according to the age level of children.
Since 2009 to this September, Seoul has developed an education booklet according to the syllabi of all grades in elementary school called "Let's Create a Green Seoul together with Hwani and Gyeongi." This booklet has been distributed to all 1st to 4th graders in elementary schools in Seoul (420,000 students in total).
As of now, textbooks for 5th and 6th grade are being developed and by 2011, all grades of elementary school will receive education in taking care of the environment.

Seoul will continue to cooperate with the central government, civic society and other partners to achieve a synergy in the implementing of green policies.
>>Seoul is exempting foreign businesses from national and regional taxes up to a period of 10 years. It is also providing these businesses with government-owned land for a low cost either for sale or long-term rent. Foreign businesses are also provided with financial support in hiring and educating employees as well as research. Seoul is also providing a long-term loan for investing in facilities. It is creating a new fund of 200 billion won (18 million USD, 13 million Euros) for foreign invested businesses and working improving related systems and regulations.
-In order to improve the life quality of foreign investors and their families living in Seoul, Seoul is continuing to invite famous, private schools from overseas, such as Dwight School, to set their campuses in Seoul. Seoul is also building rental housing for foreigners and medical clinics for foreigners. It is also setting up announcements in foreign languages in public transportation as well as signboards for foreigners on the streets. All in all, Seoul is trying to make itself a city where residing foreigners will have no problems in education, housing, medical care, transportation and all other areas.
-In particular, Seoul has set up Global Center in major parts of the city where foreigners can visit to get consultations and solutions to the problems they encounter as they live in the city. There are over 10 Global Centers in Seoul as of now where foreigners can go to ask advise on various fields such as living in Seoul, tourism and business. Seoul is planning to expand the number and functions of these global centers in the near future.