On the publication of a white paper on the Hope Seoul Idea Expo
Date: February 28, 2013
I still vividly remember Seoul Plaza last autumn. I was confident that Seoul could be transformed into a “sustainable, livable city”. When I was elected as the mayor of Seoul, I put forward a slogan, “Citizens are the mayor.” I wanted to build a Seoul where every citizen could achieve their dreams. I have always tried to understand the perspective of the citizens and thereby identify what they hope to achieve. And I have always asked myself, “How well am I doing?” Even now, I still think about what the citizens need, and I want to communicate with them more directly and listen to what they have to say. I feel a strong need to get feedback on how well the Seoul Metropolitan Government is doing and what more needs to be done.
Almedalen Week is a unique political event held in Visby, a beach resort on Gotland Island in the southeastern region of Sweden. At this event, which is also called a “rock concert for politicians,” a wide range of themes and issues are discussed in about 400 different conferences. Well-known politicians, labor unions, civic organizations, and individuals are welcome to take part and express their opinions. Minority opinions are recognized and equally respected. I have to say that I envied Sweden for holding such an event. It was remarkable how politicians, labor unions, civic organizations, the media, and individuals freely engaged in debates. Such a relaxed, open, public discussion and conversation over political issues and vision for the future has driven Sweden’s sustainable development toward a welfare state, while preserving its national productivity and competitiveness.
The Hope Seoul Idea Expo 2012 is Seoul’s first event similar to Almedalen Week. It was my hope that through this expo, Seoul and Korea could become a city and nation better and more livable than even Sweden. On October 13, I personally visited programs under three themes—sharing policy, communication, and public participation in policymaking. While observing these programs, my initial hope became a certainty. At the expo, 41 organizations and 26,000 citizens discussed the present and future of Seoul, and though it was only the first Hope Seoul Idea Expo, we were surprised at the sheer number of participants and impressed by ideas presented. In a citizens’ policy ideas marketplace, the heads of divisions of the Seoul Metropolitan Government directly listened to each idea one by one. As a result, 268 promising policy ideas put forward by citizens were collected. For example, the suggestions that “comments informing users of the insufficient balance on their public transportation cards need to be changed” and that “we should make some green spaces between trees on the streets” are valuable expressions of citizens’ concerns, and will help realize the establishment of communities of happiness and prosperity. In order to realize the potential benefits of all such suggestions, we will listen closely to the citizens.
“This event is quite laid back and enjoyable. It couldn’t be any better” is a comment from a citizen (@mondrian_k) who participated in the Hopeful Seoul Idea Expo 2012, and it sums up our intentions nicely. Building a happier Seoul should be a pleasant undertaking. There is no reason for it to be overly stressful. Now that we have taken the first step, we will prepare a broader platform for greater citizen participation, allowing the citizens to make policy in Seoul. This book describes the whole process—including the three months of preparation and the two days of the idea expo itself—and its purpose is to build on what we did right and reflect on what went wrong. In this way, we hope to hold better Hopeful Seoul Idea Expos in the future. I look forward to your continued interest and patronage regarding the 2013 Expo. If the Hope Seoul Idea Expo grows to rival Sweden’s Almedalen Week, we expect Seoul to grow along with it at an accelerated rate. The citizens are the mayor!