2016 New Year’s Address by the Mayor of Seoul
The Flower of Seoul, Blossom!
We Will Safeguard the Lives of Seoul Citizens under the Three Pillars of Growth, Jobs, and Welfare.
Citizens of Seoul and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
The year 2016 has finally arrived.
I wish all of you and your families great fortune and happiness in the new year.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Seoul’s so-called “administration with citizens.”
Over the past four years, we have seen both small and large changes and innovations in the Seoul Metropolitan Government. The structure of governance, under which Seoul citizens have been elevated to the status of mayors, has now become the foundation of our administration, and innovation has inevitably become one of our major principles. As such, innovation and citizen-centric governance have now become terms that are synonymous with the administration of Seoul.
The Guardian, one of the UK’s most prominent voices on innovation, ranked me among the top five most innovative mayors in the world. I received this honor only because you, the citizens of Seoul, have stood at the forefront of the innovation we have achieved. As a result, the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s efforts and achievements in governance and innovation stand to receive even more acclaim at home and abroad in the future.
Under the banner of citizen-centric governance and innovation, we have forged a new path of transformation that is leading our city into a new era. We have managed to solve the problems of our era by standing firmly, bravely facing every new challenge that arose before us.
In particular, we have reduced the debt that accumulated due to the reckless spending of Seoul’s previous administration, and we abandoned the huge, elaborate, and wasteful civil engineering and construction projects that the city had pursued. Instead, we increased welfare to provide greater support for the lives of our citizens, revived small neighborhoods and communities, and promoted the social economy. We also ceased the outdated practice of completely demolishing entire neighborhoods for massive construction projects, thereby ushering in a new kind of urban renewal that supports people and the local communities and neighborhoods in which they live. Breaking away from our dependence on external growth, development of civil engineering and construction, and mayor-led initiatives, we sought alternative means of achieving people-centered growth, and have been paving the way for economic democratization, inclusive growth, and balanced growth based on a spirit of fairness. We have made great efforts to prevent excessive gentrification, protect traditional markets and local businesses, and support socially disadvantaged groups. Furthermore, we have made significant investments in the people and their future, for example by changing irregular workers into regular workers, introducing the “living wage” system, and supporting youth activities.
We have boldly transformed our welfare policies to make them far more proactive, and we have doubled the number of social welfare workers, who have now become the bastion of our welfare system by seeking out welfare blind spots, striving to protect the lives of every single citizen. Our night buses, national and public daycare centers, safety-conscious hospitals, 24-hour provision of caregivers for people with severe disabilities, and construction of 80,000 rental apartments have all changed the lives of Seoul citizens for the better.
During the MERS outbreak, we stood at the forefront of the crisis and did our absolute best to ensure the safety of our citizens through swift, preemptive response measures. In the process, phrases such as “Better too early than too late” and “The magic bullet for MERS is information disclosure” became synonymous with our era. Seoul’s preemptive response measures were the main contributors to the eventual eradication of MERS in Korea, fulfilling the firm promise we made to protect the lives of our citizens following the Sewol Ferry tragedy. Moreover, since the landslides that occurred on Umyeonsan Mountain, we have devoted ourselves to developing and implementing measures to prevent landslides and flooding, as well as to improve the safety of construction sites. As a result, Seoul is becoming increasingly safe from all kinds of disasters.
All of these achievements were possible only because the 10 million citizens of Seoul believed in the Seoul government and stood by our side, and because Seoul Metropolitan Government officials worked together with a common mind and spirit.
Respected 10 million citizens of Seoul and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
Unfortunately, we cannot hold onto the satisfaction of our past accomplishments forever. We still have much work to do in areas where we are still lacking, and many challenges remain to be overcome. In order to forge a new path toward the future, we need to accept our accomplishments and failures for what they are, and we must once again start a new wave of great change that will sustain us during our long march toward a new and better future. In the new year, we will face fresh challenges and problems that will need to be overcome and resolved, and we must be prepared for them.
Most importantly, we must recognize that the lives of our citizens are difficult, the livelihoods of our citizens are difficult, and the economy is struggling. Low growth is becoming firmly entrenched, drawing a deep, dark shade over our entire economy. Moreover, growth without employment is reducing the number of jobs available to our citizens, pushing them into lives of uncertainty and hopelessness. We cannot see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that is the low birthrate of our country and the aging of our citizens. In addition, our household debt has reached record heights, over KRW 1.3 quadrillion, and public debt has long exceeded KRW 1 quadrillion. In this time of inequality, unfairness, and anxiety, sighs of resignation and stinging complaints can be heard all across the country.
In this era of pain and suffering, we must console our citizens and support them in their lives by providing more welfare benefits and services. However, the income of local governments, which are responsible for supplying welfare support and services to their citizens, has stagnated. Even after 20 years of local autonomy, local governments still depend on funding from the central government. Moreover, the central government is anachronistically attempting to obstruct and stop the creative, supportive, and realistic welfare policies proposed by local governments, despite their difficult financial situations. One such example is the central government’s attempt to stop the youth guarantee and youth activity support policies that the Seoul Metropolitan Government implemented to mitigate the employment difficulties face by Seoul’s youth. This is an utterly deplorable situation.
Respected Seoul citizens and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
We now face great economic uncertainty. At no other time has the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” rung as true as it does now. We must eliminate the possibility of a “lost decade” in Korea and put a firm end to this period of stagnation, recession, incompetence, and lethargy. We need to open a new path to prosperity and fan the flames of our waning engine of growth. The agricultural-based economy of our past needs to be transformed into an innovation-based economy sustained by innovation-led growth. In this way, we will be able to create new value, new industries, new markets, and new jobs.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will stand at the vanguard of this change, holding high the banner of new growth and holding fast to the principle of putting citizens’ livelihoods above all else. Focusing on a virtuous cycle based on the three pillars of growth, jobs, and welfare, we will safeguard the lives of our citizens and open a new chapter in the history of Seoul.
No matter how big our problems are, and no matter how much those problems hinder us, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will continue moving forward. For our citizens and for a brighter future, we will overcome whatever difficulties may lie in our path. Determined to remain humble while prioritizing and serving Seoul citizens, we will avoid overly lengthy academic deliberations and burdensome administrative procedures in order to focus on the true realities of our situation, striving to sustain and improve the lives of our citizens and their livelihoods.
Therefore, in 2016, the Seoul administration’s first, second, and third priorities will be the livelihoods of the people. The entire city administration will be dedicated to making sure that all citizens are able to make a decent living and put food on their tables.
To this end, we will focus on fostering new growth engine industries. Areas such as Magok, Yangjae-Umyeon, Hongneung, Gaepo, G Valley, Changdong-Sanggye, and Dongdaemun Fashion District as well as the Seoul Animation Center and Seoul International Complex will become major bases for the growth of cutting-edge convergence, complex industries, and promising industries in research and development, biotechnology, medical fields, IT, and cultural content. The development of these bases of growth will rapidly lead to the creation of quality jobs. Amid this change, Seoul’s creative economy, which is now imminent, will bring greater security to the lives of Seoul citizens and lead Seoul toward a better future.
First, when the construction of the R&D facilities in Magok is completed in 2018, over 120,000 jobs will be created. These facilities will form the best and largest R&D district in the country, and at its heart will be the LG Science Park, which has received a total investment of KRW 3 trillion.
Second, the existing R&D facilities in the Yangjae-Umyeon area will be expanded, and an “R&D Town” will be established on the site of the granary of Pi (π)-City.
Third, a biological and medical science hub will be created in Hongneung with the goal of establishing a system of industry-academia cooperation between companies, universities, and hospitals. As part of this effort, we will provide active support for the biomedical industry as a means of revitalizing the local economy and stimulating balanced growth in northeastern Seoul.
Fourth, the Gaepo Digital Innovation Park, which will open this September, will become an advanced base for not only fostering skilled and creative personnel in the digital industry but also for launching ICT startups focused on new ideas and solutions. With this, the year 2016 will become the first year of Seoul’s transformation into the digital capital of the world.
Fifth, G Valley will become a cutting-edge industrial convergence and integration complex equipped with cultural, leisure, housing, and welfare facilities. A support system for nurturing promising industries, such as the Internet of Things, ICT, and electric cars, will also be created, and an industrial ecosystem under which these industries can achieve long-term growth will be established.
Sixth, the COEX-Jamsil Stadium area will become home to the Seoul International Complex, which will focus on four industries: international business, MICE, sports, and culture and entertainment. Once this international complex is completed, an estimated KRW 15 trillion in economic benefits and over 80,000 jobs will be created. The economic impact of the global business center alone will amount to a total of KRW 264.8 trillion and 1.215 million new jobs over 27 years.
Seventh, the Changdong-Sanggye region will become a culture and economic hub for the 3.2 million people of northeastern Seoul, creating 80,000 jobs and becoming a driving force for balanced development in Seoul. Following the completion of Platform Changdong 61, located near Changdong Station, in March this year, various cultural programs will be hosted at the facility, contributing significantly to the creative industries of Seoul and increasing the number of music and art performances created and enjoyed by its citizens. Moreover, in 2020, upon the completion of Seoul Arena, which will be the largest facility dedicated to the performance arts in Korea, northeastern Seoul will become a global hub of the music industry, the center of hallyu, and a pillar of the culture and performance industries. Moreover, until 2019, when Changdong Garage is to be relocated, we will continue to make plans to turn Changdong into a modern industrial cluster to which people and companies will flock from all over the country.
Eighth, the “animation town” to be established in the Namsan area will allow the Korean animation industry to create a second hallyu, going beyond Asia to the entire world. A new and exciting building will be built in place of the current Ani-Town, providing more spaces in which animation companies from Korea and abroad can operate.
Ninth, we will raise the status of Seoul as a city of fashion by holding the “Conde Nast International Luxury Conference,” which will be hosted by Suzy Menkes, an internationally renowned fashion critic. This event will help revitalize Seoul’s fashion industry and put K-fashion at the center of the Asian fashion world.
Tenth, we will attract major construction businesses to Sangam Digital Media City (DMC), a former abandoned dump site that was transformed into a state-of-the-art digital media cluster with over 450 media, entertainment, and IT companies employing 36,167 people. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will also provide support for the development and commercialization of various new technologies and hallyu cultural content, and the development of Sangam DMC will be expanded to include the Susaek Station area, thereby completing the DMC’s growth into a central base of Seoul’s creative economy.
We must find the wisdom to create new things while also making use of the traditional assets we already possess, such as Seoul’s specialized urban industries, including the traditional Korean medicine industry in Dongdaemun, the jewelry industry in Jongno, and the handmade shoes industry in Seongsu. These are treasures that are unequaled in the world in terms of their traditional and historical importance, and they will experience a period of new growth and development along with the city itself. This December, the second jewelry center in Jongno and the traditional Korean medicine industry promotion center in Dongdaemun will open, ushering in a second golden age for Seoul’s urban industries.
The tourism and MICE industries are major drivers of job creation and key engines that will lead the growth of Seoul in the future. Last year, Seoul’s tourism industry took a major hit due to the MERS outbreak. However, that setback was also a chance for us to make new progress and become stronger, just like the ground becomes firmer after a heavy rain. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will mark 2016 as the first year of innovative tourism in Seoul, and will internalize change and innovation in all areas of the city’s tourism industry. Through the “Zero Complaints from Tourists” project, we will make Seoul an ideal place for tourists who are travelling alone and strengthen the foundation of Seoul’s tourism industry. While doing so, we will continue to build the tourism infrastructure needed to achieve our goal of attracting over 20 million tourists to Seoul on an annual basis. Despite the difficulties caused by the MERS outbreak last year, Seoul was chosen by Business Traveler and Global Traveler magazines as the best MICE city in the world. When we finally achieve our goals of attracting 20 million tourists to Seoul every year and making Seoul one of the top three MICE cities in the world by 2018, we will be creating 630,000 new jobs and KRW 25 trillion in added value annually. As a result, Seoul will be reborn as a truly global tourism city, a city of rich history and culture, and a city that is competitive on the global stage. Through these accomplishments, Seoul citizens will become more proud of themselves and their city.
Respected Seoul citizens and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
The goal of all growth must be the benefit of the people, and the result of all growth must be the happiness of the people.
The benefits of Seoul’s growth need to be shared with all 10 million of the city’s citizens in diverse ways, such as through the creation of jobs for everyone who wants to work. Our city needs to create quality jobs in line with its growth.
However, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is limited by the economic, employment, and labor policies of the central government, making it extremely difficult to break away from the paradigm of growth without employment. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Through our own policy measures and financial investments, we will strive to find innovative ways to create new jobs.
Through my participation in the “Employment Trail” initiative during the month of October last year, I became keenly aware that it is entirely possible to create quality jobs in this city. I was convinced that the desires of local financial organizations and the passion of young people would be the drivers of job creation, and I realized that we can create as many jobs as we want if the Seoul Metropolitan Government provides the needed urban planning, spatial, and financial support. Also, we confirmed that large conglomerates are ready to invest in Seoul at any time, and that over 60 universities in Seoul are prepared to cooperate with the city government for the benefit of their alumni. In this way, I found the answers to the job creation problem among the people themselves. Starting at the beginning of this year, I will once again venture out to the places where the people of Seoul live and work. I will hold conferences with companies and meetings with presidents of universities to seek ways to create jobs, and any great ideas we come up with will be implemented as soon as possible. I will bring together people involved in private companies, industries, labor groups, and universities to establish a bridgehead for creating quality jobs. In this way, the year 2016 will become the year in which economic growth finally leads to the creation of quality jobs.
In 2016, the ideal of “Seoul, a City that Respects Labor” will be fully realized. The city will take steps to protect the rights and interests of working citizens, establish the role of “exemplary user,” and make various other efforts to guarantee the basic labor rights of all Seoul citizens. We will also reinforce our investments in the people, who work to strengthen our economy and are the foundation of our society. The living wage system, which goes beyond the idea of a minimum wage for mere survival to guarantee wages that allow citizens to live their lives with dignity, will be expanded to the private sector. In addition, by 2017, all irregular workers will be made regular workers, thereby restoring common sense to the labor market and increasing the quality of jobs in Seoul.
Furthermore, in 2016, Seoul will pursue economic democratization, allowing the city itself to grow in line with its economic growth. The city will lead efforts to prevent excessive gentrification, where the profits of urban development only line the pockets of building owners and investors. We will also bring greater fairness to our city’s economic environment by ensuring the implementation of a fair leasehold system, and will enact an ordinance for economic democratization designed to protect economically vulnerable groups and resolve conflicts between economic agents. Furthermore, we will take steps to protect and nurture businesses that have great potential to become small- and medium-sized enterprises, and will support agreements on fair distribution and implement a franchise certification system to promote balanced development. Through the newly-launched “Livelihood Judicial Police,” we will take harsh measures against people and organizations that bring pain and sadness to our citizens.
Respected Seoul citizens and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
No matter what others say, welfare that invests in the people, in the future, and in happiness is an absolute necessity for the sustainability and qualitative growth of our communities. The happiness of an individual cannot be thought of as separate from the happiness of our society. With the power to maintain communities, welfare represents the lowest limit of happiness. Welfare is not a choice but a necessity. Recognizing this, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has extensively expanded its welfare policies and is striving to reach out to everyone, including infants and children, adolescents, seniors, women, people with disabilities, and families in crisis. In an effort to achieve our goal of universal welfare, we will take care of our youth as well as the baby boomer generation, ensuring that all citizens’ right to welfare is fully and wholly realized.
Seoul is home to 2.14 million people from the baby boomer generation, or the “50+ generation,” which is the largest age group in Korea. There is a pressing need for new welfare to support them. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will help the 50+ generation prepare for post-retirement life by providing systematic support through the 50+ Foundation. In addition, through the 50+ Campus, the city will provide assistance with retirement planning as well as opportunities for startups, employment, and social contribution. In this way, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will guarantee that Seoul citizens are able to engage in continuous economic activities and live rewarding lives.
Another pressing issue is policies for our youth, the future of our society. The status of our youth today will be the status of our society tomorrow. This is why the “Seoul Youth Guarantee Plan” needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Through this plan, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide increasingly active support for this city’s youth, such as funding for social participation activities, housing, and spaces for social activities, to ensure that Seoul’s youth will become the hope and future of our society.
The innovation of the welfare delivery system will help us achieve the dreams and solidarity of our communities. The visiting community centers that were established in 80 neighborhoods in 2015 will be installed in a total of 282 neighborhoods in 2016, and then all across Seoul in 2017, bringing greater hope to every single one of Seoul’s citizens. In this way, our dream of eliminating welfare blind spots in Seoul will be fulfilled.
Welfare is definitely not a waste; rather, it is the best way to invest in the people and our future. According to one analysis, the KRW 6 trillion in social welfare funds that Seoul spent in 2013 created a production inducement effect valued at KRW 14 trillion as well as 154,000 new jobs. Welfare is another kind of growth engine as well as a fundamental part of the growth theory where the three pillars of growth, jobs, and welfare come together to create a virtuous cycle.
In 2016, this growth engine will begin to gain momentum as jobs are created in the process of Seoul’s growth, and as the results of that growth are invested in welfare to support the lives of Seoul citizens, more jobs will be created, thus leading to more growth. In 2016, Seoul will make great progress toward becoming a city where people live together in happiness through the harmony between growth, job creation, and welfare.
Beloved members of the Seoul district office family!
In 2016, the vision of Seoul as a “city of local autonomies” will be realized. Two of my basic beliefs are: “citizens are members of districts, and members of districts are citizens” and “city administration is district administration, and district administration is city administration.”
I believe that the key to autonomous decentralization is financial independence. Without sufficient funds, a district cannot become autonomous. Therefore, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will raise the standard financial demand sufficiency from the current 97.1 percent to the promised 100 percent. The additional KRW 272.8 billion that will be issued next year will serve as seed money for the fiscal decentralization of autonomous districts in Seoul.
Members of the district office family, we are one. We are one now, and we will become stronger in the future. Let us remain together, always.
Respected Seoul citizens and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
Last December, I attended an event held by a publishing company to celebrate the publication of the first issue of the Baekbeom Journal. At the event, we were holding a ceremony to clean and organize the first issue of the Baekbeom Journal, when it suddenly occurred to me that we had not cleaned and prayed for the spirit of Baekbeom Kim Koo, even on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule.
History that is forgotten is bound to be repeated.
What are we to do about this divided history, this divided nation? What would Baekbeom say if he were to see how this land has been divided by regionalism, ideology, wealth, and generation division? Kim Koo chose “Baekbeom,” meaning “an ordinary person,” as his pen name because he wanted to make Korea a country where even ordinary people, such as butchers, could be patriots. However, these days, Korean youth are calling our nation “Hell Joseon,” and many of our citizens wish to move to other countries and start new lives.
The Sewol Ferry remains at the bottom of the cold, dark sea. Our democracy is weakening day by day. Politics, which should bring people together, are dividing our nation. The path to coexistence and mutually beneficial living stretches out far ahead of us. Amid such circumstances, many Korean citizens are unable to free themselves from the vicious cycle of despair and frustration, and no one talks of happiness anymore. What are we to do? Where can our weary and exhausted citizens go for support and consolation?
Let’s make Seoul a shoulder that our citizens can lean on and be comforted. Let’s share a little more of our passion. Let’s work a little harder so that Seoul can become a source of hope for our citizens. Is it not true that patriotism and service to the people are our callings and the source of our pride?
Respected and beloved members of the Seoul City family!
Hope does not simply fall from the sky. We must make our own hope.
There will always be obstacles in our way, but remember the old saying, “When confronted by mountains, dig a way through; when confronted by a river, build a bridge to get to the other side.” Let us pave our way through the mountain in front of us and build a bridge to get to the other side of the river that blocks our path. Let’s make Seoul a city of hope where life is better today than it was yesterday, and will be better tomorrow than it is today. We have done well so far, and we can do better in the future. Let’s work together to ensure that the flower of Seoul will blossom in the spring of hope. Let’s do it together. Thank you.