2017 New Year’s Address
People-focused City, Seoul, it is the heart of a new Korea.
The new year of 2017 has dawned, leaving 2016 behind.
There has never been a time when the common New Year’s greeting, “Let’s see the old year out and the new year in” could touch our heart so much.
Now ‘a dark era’ and ‘a great history’ are crossing paths in Korea.
The dark era has been generated by the alliance of establishment forces such as political power, capital power, and academic power. The great history, on the other hand, is being created by ordinary people dreaming of a society with common sense.
Now is the time for us to usher in a new epoch. Indeed, it may be our last chance. We must let go of what must be gone, and we have to finish what must be finished.
We must not forget the past year, however; we must only let it go.
It was the first voice of the people who participated in the candlelight vigil in Gwanghwamun Plaza last November.
“Saturdays are the highest time for regular merchants; however, the current state of the country is so frustrating and makes me so angry that it seems that I shouldn’t just stay calm. That’s the reason why I came to the plaza.”
A woman in her 50s who works at a restaurant in Eunpyeong-gu was in the plaza, even though she had to work for a living.
“I’m here because I do not think I should have to raise my eight-year-old son in a country as absurd as this.”
As the Mayor of Seoul and one of the politicians leading our citizens, I was so ashamed in the face of the anger of the citizens.
The citizens’ shouts and desires were full of passion and stronger than ever. The plaza was boiling with rage at the incompetence and corruption of the president and the stagnation of old institutions. At the same time, the voices were full of desire for a new society, a new system, and a new country. Through the democracy of the plaza, people declared a break with the old Korea and opened a prelude to a new Korea.
Heralding in a new Korea is not the same as going back to the era before the term of the President Park Geun-hye. Instead, it is about starting a new country that has never existed, yet has long been dreamt of in our hearts and minds.
It is not difficult, and it is not far away.
The new Korea must be concrete. It should exist vividly in our lives, something we can touch feel and see.
It is a country where a woman working in a restaurant located at an entrance of an alley in Eunpyeong-gu can live well, working diligently every day, a country in which her 8-year-old son can grow safe and happy.
Of course, the issue of making a living is important. That, however, was not the ultimate goal of the people gathered in the plaza.
Living alone in our separate ways cannot be our goal.
First one million, and then two million people with candles in their hands have gathered together to increase the strength of the demonstrations at the plaza, and they have retained their passion for such a long time.
This is vivid proof that our goal is not to settle for merely ‘living on something.’
Something beyond living, living like a human being, a quality life, and a country where we live together well – these are our goals.
The ‘invisible hands’ of the top 1% including political power, capital power, prosecution power, academic power, and media power have controlled our politics and economy for many years.
The alliance of the establishment has been maintained by codes such as privileges, special favors, collusive links between politicians and businessmen, authoritarianism and corruption, and have collaborated with old growth ideological frameworks such as market fundamentalism, civil engineering, a construction-oriented economy, and a policy of growth first, welfare later.
As a result, our society has become corrupt because of inequality and unfairness, and people have become distressed.
We cannot just stand by; it is time to clean up the old systems and orders.
There will not be a new Korea unless we first reform the structural contradiction of politics, namely problems of inequality and unfairness, and we change the old systems and the old orders that cause socioeconomic inequality.
All power comes from the people.
Now, the people have realized that they should not stay still. They have stood up indignantly to open the era of people’s power confidently.
In order to declare war against the ‘invisible hands of the top one percent’, they have taken their candles and gathered in the plaza by candlelight, showing the real power of the people.
The people’s power must now spread from the plaza into our daily lives through our politics, economy, and society.
Unmonitored power has been abused and corrupted.
Power must be decentralized.
The central government must transfer its power to local governments, and local governments must conduct governance in cooperation with civil society.
The central government is not the government of a given president, and Seoul is not the city of a given Mayor. We need to create a government of citizens in cooperation with civil society.
The first step towards this is for the central government to distribute its authority and budget to local governments.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has made sure of the importance of ‘decentralization and local autonomy’ while promoting policies such as Eco-friendly Free Meals and Youth Allowance and going through a conflict with the central government due to the MERSC situation.
Governments of the future should be creative, comprising a coalition of various local governments.
Local governments closer to citizens should be able to take greater responsibility for the lives of citizens.
Local governments must communicate and collaborate with civil society.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is a ‘citizens’ government’ that cooperate with civil society.
‘Citizens, who were once called customers, became the owners’ and took the ‘role of the Mayor’ in the course of solving the urgent problems of the city and establishing a long-term urban plan.
Citizens themselves have made decisions on the use of the budget of policies such as the ‘Citizen Participation Budget System’, ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’, ‘2030 Seoul Plan’ and ‘2020 Youth Guarantee.’
They also became the key to establishing, implementing, and monitoring such policies.
The painstaking self-innovation should be continued in public offices.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has facilitated innovative movements in the public sector, such as innovations in boss-subordinate relationships, subcontracts, and administrative services.
In particular, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has implemented the so-called “Park Won-soon Act” (an anti-bribery and graft act), which is more stringent than the Kim Young-ran Act, created two years earlier, in order to eliminate corruption and graft and to enhance transparency in the public sector.
This year, Seoul City will spur itself to bring about innovations toward clean and responsible public offices.
The ideal surveillance of power and democratic health can be secured by realizing life politics; that is, the democracy of everyday life.
We already have the Citizens Hall, Seoul Innovation Park, 50+Campus, Visiting Community Service Center, Community Building, schools, and libraries all over Seoul.
Each of them is a ‘Meeting Plaza’ where people’s lives and politics meet.
Although their dreams are different and their future paths are different, the citizens are cultivating a living democracy, an everyday democracy, while talking with each other, a continuing process of discussion.
When the light from the candles permeates the space of life, a true civil revolution can be accomplished.
People are angry at their society, in which the 99% is discriminated against by the top 1% of the establishment.
As a way to overcome such inequality, I have suggested ‘WEconomics,’ which does not distinguish between economy and welfare, growth and distribution.
‘WEconomics’ is a citizens’ economy.
The economy is not a front-wheel driving system in which the two wheels of the state and conglomerates lead. Instead, it is a four-wheel driving system in which large companies, small and medium-sized companies, labor, and social welfare pull together.
In this context, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has implemented policies such as economic democratization, labor respect, job creation, and welfare.
We will continue to create good jobs, to facilitate entrepreneurship, and to comprehensively take care of small businesses in even the smallest the alleyways.
Furthermore, we will restore the value of labor and human dignity to help citizens live like human beings, with the quality of life going beyond simply the issue of food.
Investing in people is the greatest investment we can make for the future.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government opened the universal welfare era in Korea by launching the Eco-friendly Free Meal policy in 2011. It also now leads the ‘State Provided Childcare’ by setting and driving towards the goal of making one in two children attend national public daycare centers by 2020.
‘State Provided Childcare’ is an important public investment that can solve not only the low birthrate problem that will erode the future, but also the problems of career interruption for women, women’s jobs, and gender equality.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has made changes in the old systems, has reformed the current administration, and has prepared for the future at the same time.
In addition, the experimental implementation of policies such as the Youth Allowance and the Living Wage System, which will be expanded this year, will become the foundation of the ‘Korean Basic Allowance System.’
Turning temporary employees into permanent ones and facilitating the introduction of the labor board system has opened the door to an era of labor respect.
The Visiting Community Service Center is a declaration of the People-focused City, Seoul not to give up on the life of even a single citizen, and will be the new frontier of the future welfare of Korea.
Our future goals can be achieved only when we are not afraid of innovation based on insight.
There is a saying that the president talks about the principles, while the mayor picks up the trash.
In fact, the Seoul Metropolitan Government cleans up the trash, manages water and sewage, and decorates the Hangang River and parks.
It also works towards improving sidewalk blocks carefully and installing as many crosswalks as possible in order to create the walkable city.
Furthermore, it takes care of citizens’ life in detail and is facilitating innovation of a new future by reducing and recycling waste and by transforming the current traffic system into an eco-friendly one.
In the past, Seoul achieved a period of economic growth called the ‘Miracle on the Han River’ through the power of development, capital, and efficiency.
In return, however, labor rights, human rights, safety, pedestrian rights, diversity, the environment, and the local ecology were sacrificed.
We have now revolted against such trends, and have succeeded in changing the urban paradigm.
The Seoul Station 7017 Project to return the Seoul Station Overpass to citizens in this spring, Abandoned Gyeongchun Line (Railroad), the regeneration of Mapo Oil Depot, and the registration of the Seoul City Wall as a UNESCO World Heritage Property will all improve the dignity of Seoul in the aspects of history, environment, and culture, and will serve as new lungs to provide citizens with a breath of fresh air.
The Changdong-Sanggye New Economic Base in Gangbuk area, Hongneung Bio Hub, Campus Town, Southeast International Exchange Complex in the Gangnam area, Gaepo Digital Innovation Park, and the Yangjae R&D Center will combine to form a new heart of Seoul by combining urban regeneration and sustenance for the future.
The story of Seoul does not end in Seoul.
The world has already shown its appreciation for the changes in Seoul and the innovations it has achieved over the last 5 years.
A number of indicators and awards demonstrate the possibility of Seoul.
Seoul has come up with impressive achievements as the world’s best MICE city, the world’s third city for international conferences, a sightseeing city with 13 million tourists, and many others.
The fact that I was named the winner of the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development last November shows that the slogan ‘Sharing City, Seoul’ has become a global standard of the future.
As a chairperson country of ICLEI, the world’s largest city council, Seoul has led the response to global climate change.
Seoul also founded the Global Social Economy Forum to lead global cities and international organizations.
Seoul, as a champion city of inclusive growth, will hold a conference of the mayors of over 50 cities, including New York and Paris, in October 2017.
There were also difficulties caused by the demolition of Okbaraji Alley, the sit-in demonstration of adults with developmental disabilities, and the declaration of Seoul Human Rights.
Sometimes we were shown our naked faces of the era of living alone in our separate ways and of welfare dead zones.
The Guui Station incident became an important turning point in bringing about structural changes through painful self-reflection.
Seoul as a People-focused City still has a long way to go.
There are new tasks to start, and we have to continually work towards completing the tasks that we are already pursuing.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government officials readily accepted the changes and led innovation.
The officials have communicated with citizens and have created places for cooperative governance together with civil society, experts, and local residents at every step possible.
They have reflected citizens’ diverse desires into new policies and have wisely solved complicated conflicts of interests.
The officials of the Seoul Metropolitan Government who take the roads not taken are the hopes of a new Korea.
It was also the officials who worked as the hidden contributors for a few weeks of peaceful and honorable candlelight civil revolution.
For the safety of the citizens, the officials checked each of the ventilation holes and the subway lines, kept the site safe, and worked to open washroom facilities for the convenience of the citizens.
Nothing was shining and few officials were noticed.
However, the officials did not spare any effort to guarantee the citizens’ rights and to maintain the safety and convenience of citizens’ safety and convenience, their contributions invaluable and yet invisible.
In order to take care of the livelihoods and safety of citizens even in the national crisis, the officials have cooperated with the 25 autonomous districts in implementing measures to stabilize the people’s livelihoods directly connected to the citizens’ daily lives. That was the work of the officials of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the autonomous districts. I am very proud of working with you.
I have a strong belief that together with the officials of Seoul we can make a new Korea.
Those who dream and practice their dreams deserve to have the future.
It is necessary to fundamentally solve the problems of Nuri Curriculum budget and move towards state provided childcare system.
The Youth Allowance should be implemented.
The government-published textbook of Korean History and the so-called final and irreversible agreement with Japan on the comfort women shall be abolished.
The South-North dialogue shall be resumed and the Gaeseong Industrial Complex shall be reopened.
A new future will come when the ‘Seoul-Pyongyang City Cooperation Initiative,’ which is asleep in the drawer of Seoul, sees the light.
Korea had the power to surprise the world with the Miracle on the Han River.
In 2017, the world is paying attention to Korea and Seoul again.
Now, it is the time to implement the ‘Miracle of Gwanghwamun Plaza’.
The peaceful and mature democracy, courage and enthusiasm, friendship and solidarity that are now taking place in the Gwanghwamun plaza will complete the People-focused City, Seoul, and will create a new Korea.
Seoul’s innovation and cooperative governance will be the cornerstone of a new Korea and will create a Seoul that shines around the world, and more importantly in the lives of citizens.
Seoul is the passionate heart of a new Korea.
Let us begin a new Korea together with Seoul citizens and the power of the people.