We Will Build Sidewalks Where You Can Walk Side by Side With Your Loved Ones

Press Briefing on Sidewalk Management

Date: April 25, 2012
Venue: Briefing Room, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall

I consider this one of my most important presentations so far, and there is a good reason why I have decided to give this presentation myself.

Before becoming the mayor, I walked down the sidewalks of Seoul frequently and always used public transportation, and I remember the enormous stress I often felt while walking. This city’s poorly-built sidewalks eventually bothered me so much that I had to take action. I am sure that many citizens are greatly inconvenienced by year-end construction projects and road work that tear up the sidewalks. Aside from the budget required for such work, I am pretty sure that most citizens feel as I do in respect to such practices.

I think of paving roads as a kind of “show window administration,” and if you have seen how sidewalks are affected by this practice, you are likely aware of how the city’s policy is put into action. I imagine you have been disappointed by it. After my inauguration, I prepared for this presentation by holding a series of closed-door meetings with the relevant divisions, and with what I have learned, I will root out this 60-year practice regarding sidewalks. I will take the first step toward creating a “Walking Seoul”.

Seoul citizens spend an average of seven hours per day on the street, and the total length of Seoul’s sidewalks is about 2,788 kilometers. Beginning and ending their days on the street, Seoul citizens really should be able to enjoy their time walking there, but in reality, they have a very hard time walking down the street. A person bound to a wheelchair feels their limitations every single moment, but the height of the curb should not be one of them. Therefore, I will see that the curb height is adjusted to one centimeter. I will also ensure that Seoul citizens are aware of these improvements being made in our city. Another inconvenience faced by Seoul citizens is all of the obstacles on the sidewalk, such as newsstands and so forth. This issue is more serious in the northern part of Seoul. Since the sidewalks are quite narrow, it makes it even harder for pedestrians to navigate their way around such obstacles. So, I will attempt to address this issue through collaboration with Seoul’s autonomous districts. We will crack down on sidewalk stands that impede pedestrian movement and issue fines. Also, during road construction work, large amounts of construction materials are often placed on the sidewalks. Thus, I will work to minimize the pedestrian inconvenience caused by this. Another major issue is that of cars parked illegally on the sidewalks. This issue requires greater citizen awareness and understanding, as these drivers park their cars as close as possible to where they are going just out of convenience, showing a lack of consideration for others. From January to March, about 30,000 cases of such illegal parking were reported. Recognizing the severity of this issue, we will punish violators without exception for such illegal parking.

Before I became the mayor, I wrote about this issue on my blog, “Wonsoon.Com Blog”. As you may know, medieval cities in Germany are still quite solid, and the sidewalks that they built long ago are still firm and strong. As a mayoral candidate, I made a pledge to create “a city where you want to walk,” and I said that after becoming mayor, I would become “a mayor of sidewalks”.

To address these issues, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will unveil its “Ten Sidewalk Commandments”.

1. A real-name sidewalk construction system will be implemented. From start to finish, the names of those in charge of sidewalk construction projects will be released to the public.

2. The existing “one-strike” system, which was established to prevent poor construction, is inadequate. So, we reviewed sidewalks built within the last two years, visited 317 sites, monitored 136.7 kilometers of sidewalks, and received 620 complaints. We aim to complete the overall monitoring process by May this year. As part of this effort, construction companies as well as supervisors will be held accountable for the quality of their work. Most small-scale construction projects are supervised by the Seoul Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation, and today, the chairman and staff members of the corporation are here to share their ideas. Could you please come forward? I would like you to make a promise with me. When supervising the construction projects, I don’t think you visit the site in person. However, by only reviewing construction-related documents, you are allowing problems to arise. The examples of Bangbae-dong and Pyeongchang-dong, where I noticed that the construction work was done very poorly, have been posted on my website. I also plan to visit areas where sidewalk construction work was completed most recently. I think this might motivate you to make a change, right?

3. To ensure pedestrian safety, temporary sidewalks will be built and “safety helpers” will be dispatched to construction sites. We will make practical changes.

4. “Sidewalk Construction Closing 11” means that sidewalk construction will not be carried out in the winter. That fact that most construction projects are launched at the end of each year has irritated many citizens. Excluding urgent cases, sidewalk construction work will not be carried out in the winter.

5. Anyone who damages the sidewalks will be held accountable, according to the so-called “causer must pay principle”. Any drivers causing damage to sidewalks will also be held accountable. Systematic research on sidewalks related to this issue is now being conducted.

6. A total of 424 local residents will serve as street monitors for a period of one year. At the end of the year, in December, the best performing monitors will be awarded.

7. We will soon make an announcement that all Seoul citizens will become participants in the street monitoring effort. A report system will be put in place that allows anyone to easily report sidewalk issues immediately. Why don’t you give it a try? Also, civil complaints can be posted on the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s GIS portal website, “Let’s Change the Street”. Taking advantage of the collective intelligence and effort of the public, this website will be used to manage Seoul’s sidewalks, and it is our first attempt to use such a community mapping system. “Let’s Change the Street” is managed by civic groups, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s reporting website can be accessed through it as well.

8. Under the slogan, “Pedestrians Embracing Sidewalks,” we are already cracking down on illegal parking, the driving of motorcycles, and the placing of construction materials on our sidewalks. Parking with two wheels on the sidewalk will also be prohibited. In particular, we receive reports of illegally parked motorcycles constantly, with some citizens even raising the issue via Twitter.

9. A “bank” for sidewalk construction will be operated. Currently, reports of sidewalk damage are not addressed immediately due to a lack of materials in storage. So, in an effort to accelerate the repair process, the supply of sidewalk construction materials will be increased by three percent and stored in a materials “bank”.

10. This initiative will not be successful through the effort of the Seoul Metropolitan Government alone. So, Seoul’s 25 autonomous districts, KT Corporation, the Korea Gas Safety Corporation, the Office of Waterworks, and related institutions will all join forces to make it a reality. We will make sure that all newly constructed sidewalks will last for more than 10 years. Working in close collaboration with related institutions, we will authorize only the sidewalk construction work that is urgently required.

As the first mayor working to create a “Walking City, Seoul,” I promise to carry out these “ten commandments” by the end of this year. In the future, the sidewalks you walk on will be built on “satisfaction, legitimacy, safety, and consideration”.

Franz Kafka once said, “A good-natured man matches your stride.” Recognizing this, we will provide you with sidewalks on which you can walk side by side with your loved ones. Beginning with this initiative, we will make Seoul a wonderful place to take a walk, and will guarantee all citizens’ right to walk comfortably, making every effort to transform Seoul into a “Happy City to Walk”.

Thank you.

The disabled and abled live together under Seoul’s sky.


Opening remarks at the “Hope Seoul Nuri Festival” on the occasion of the 2012 International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Date: April 20, 2012
Venue: Seoul Plaza

The weather is breathtakingly beautiful today, inspiring me to make Seoul an even more beautiful city. I hope it was not too difficult for all of you to come here. I would like to sincerely welcome all citizens to the 2012 Hope Seoul Nuri Festival.

Chairman Lee Gyu-dal of the Organizing Committee and related staff, Chairman Heo Kwang-tae and members of the Seoul Metropolitan Council, volunteer workers, and distinguished guests from home and abroad, thank you for attending this event today. I would like to take this opportunity to express my respect and appreciation to today’s awardees, who have overcome their challenges to become role models for our society, and the people who have given their full support to people with disabilities, who differ from others only by the nature of their skills. I sincerely congratulate you on winning the Seoul Welfare Award in the category of people with disabilities.

Today, we celebrate the 32nd International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There are many people in our society with slightly different capabilities, but who lead beautiful and meaningful lives nonetheless. Such people are not lacking in skills, but merely have different skill sets. For example, 15 percent of the hangar managers at Boeing, a global aircraft producer, are hard of hearing, and as people with visual disabilities see the world not with their eyes but through their other senses, they develop unique and remarkable skills, such as the ability to perfectly tune a piano.

The people we consider “abled” also face various difficulties and pain in their lives. People with disabilities simply face different difficulties. As they both live under the same Seoul sky, there are no significant differences between them.

Starting this year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to recruit 10 percent of its new public servants from among people with disabilities, and we will come up with a detailed plan to break down the obstacles they face, both in our hearts and in our systems. On April 18, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced the “Hope Seoul Master Plan for People with Disabilities”. This plan is the result of dozens of meetings and discussions held by Yang Won-tae, the honorary vice mayor, and many citizens with disabilities. People with disabilities were not simply the beneficiaries of this policy, but they were active participants in its development. We will not falter nor waver in carrying out this master plan, and we will continuously communicate with you throughout the process in order to maximize its results.

Esteemed citizens of Seoul,

Together with the associations for people with disabilities, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has prepared various programs to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities in such a way that, as equal citizens of Seoul, the disabled and abled can both enjoy the activities without discrimination. A dance program, harmonica performance, orchestra, and an exhibition, all held by people with physical and intellectual disabilities, are some of the main programs planned for today. Also, we ask for your active participation in the “Hopeful Coin Funding” event, which we are hosting together with the Community Chest of Korea.

I would like to take this opportunity to, once again, offer my sincere appreciation and deepest respect to all the people and volunteer workers who have dedicated themselves to providing welfare for the disabled. Dear citizens, I hope you enjoy this beautiful season. Thank you.

Seoul smiles only if its women smile.

Briefing Session on the Ten Core Tasks of Women’s Policy

Date: April 16, 2012
Venue: Main Conference Hall, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, on March 8, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced its vision “Seoul, a city that transforms women’s lives,” as a blueprint for bringing greater happiness to the lives of Seoul’s 5.3 million women.

“Seoul smiles only if its women smile”. The more I think about it, the more I like this slogan, and nothing could be closer to the truth. The administration of the city is carried out by its people, and if we look around, it is easy to see that when women are happy, their society, country, and homes are more prosperous, peaceful, and cheerful. As such, we would like to reaffirm our promise to make this the first year of administration based on gender equality by incorporating women’s perspectives and demands in all policies of our city.

The vision “Seoul, a city that transforms women’s lives” spans six sectors that are directly linked to the lives of women, including gender equality, jobs, health, and safety, and contains ten core tasks that need to carried out. Among the various plans concerning the implementation of those tasks, our team will select six of the most promising. I understand that the participants here today will take part in a field evaluation, and an event will also be held to honor the department that delivers the best presentation. This event will be modeled after the Nagasu (“I Am a Singer” television program) method, and I wish both the presenters and judges’ good luck.

Today, we will announce our plan for strengthening this vision and its implementation, with new and developmental tasks also being mentioned. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will do its best to ensure that our efforts are effective, not only today but every day. Thank you. 

Please Become the First Friend of a Laborer

Welcoming Remarks at the Appointment Ceremony for the “Honorary Citizen Labor Ombudsmen”

Date: April 13, 2012
Venue: Conference Hall, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall

For the past several days, flowers have begun blossoming and the leaves on trees are just about to emerge from their buds. I cannot but appreciate the blossoming flowers, and I really want to touch the newly formed leaves. On such a beautiful day, I am grateful to see so many brightly smiling faces, the faces of those who are to be appointed as “Honorary Citizen Labor Ombudsmen,” tasked with helping laborers in need in Seoul. Especially, I am grateful that Professor Ha Jong-kang could make time to participate in this event.

Seoul is home to 10 million citizens. Among them—based on last August’s statistics—are approximately 3.88 million laborers, of whom roughly 1.31 million work on an irregular basis, accounting for 33.7 percent of all laborers in Seoul. From these statistics, you will probably understand why the Seoul Metropolitan Government has to step up its efforts to protect worker’s rights.

However, the Seoul Metropolitan Government alone cannot protect the rights of Seoul’s workers. It requires the full attention and participation of the city’s 10 million citizens in close collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Government. When it comes to diverse labor issues—especially those of laborers who work in small, insecure workplaces—the individuals concerned cannot resolve such issues on their own. Therefore, we need experts and friends who can work together and deliver these workers’ stories to the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Those experts are you, and you will be a good friend to Seoul’s laborers for the next two years.

The Honorary Citizen Labor Ombudsmen initiative is the first such system operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in Korea. You will become the first participants as well as the first friends of our laborers.

In order to translate your genuine friendship into action and ensure that your dedication leads to tangible results, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will do its best to support you.

I thank you for your support with all of my heart.

Appointment Ceremony of “My Friend Seoul” Kid Reporters

Appointment Ceremony of “My Friend Seoul” Kid Reporters

Date: April 12, 2012
Venue: Sejong Hall, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts

Hello, kid reporters. You guys are awe~~some!

I tried to impersonate a comedian just then. How did I do? Having witnessed the activities and accomplishments of our senior kid reporters, I now truly believe that Seoul has a very bright future ahead of it.

I also had a childhood like all of you, as a kid named Park Won Soon. If there had been a program for kid reporters when I was young, I would have applied for it. But as I am not as smart as you, I probably wouldn’t have made the cut. This is truly a good program.

I am very curious to know how you picture the world and the city of Seoul. I have quite high expectations for your answers.

Do you know the population of Seoul? Is it 8,000? Or 100 million? Yes, you are correct. There are 10 million people in Seoul, and with those 10 million people comes great diversity. Like the colors of a rainbow, the lives of people in Seoul are very diverse, as are the jobs they do. Have you been to the water recycling center that was covered by your senior reporters? It is a place where water is recycled and purified. Also, cars, subways, and buses are operated by Seoul City. They are the “feet” of the 10 million citizens of Seoul. You may be curious about how such a system is operated. We have markets too. Do you wonder how markets sell and purchase products? And how they ensure the safety of the food? Just now, you learned how agricultural pesticides are monitored.

Now, you should learn about all of the things I mentioned, and tell your friends, parents, and teachers all about it. Personally, I think a good world is one where the children are happy and playful.

By the way, are you happy? I see some of you didn’t answer. You are told to study really hard, right? I know what it’s like, and that’s why I want you to learn and play in a less studious environment. You should go on field trips and experience things firsthand. Now, you have a five-day school week, don’t you? So, Seoul City is trying to create more places for you to go and have fun on the weekends. There is the Seoul Children’s Museum next to Seoul Children’s Grand Park or the Seoul Safety Experience Center. Seoul City wants to let you have fun, learn diverse things, and experience various occupations.

One of you here said you would like to run for mayor, and honestly, I felt a little threatened by that. But seriously, I think you can become more than that! You can win a Nobel Prize or become the next UN Secretary General. But there is more than that. For example, tens of thousands of street cleaners work for us early every morning. So, you see, there are many things for you to discover and share with others.

In order to make a better society in the future, I want all of you to do your best. Of course, I will do my best as well. Always remember that a reporter is someone who discovers what others don’t see and shares it with them.

I look forward to your sincere support!

Restore common sense in labor

Announcement of the conversion of irregular jobs within Seoul Metropolitan Government to regular jobs

Date: March 22, 2012
Venue: Briefing Room, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall

Dear Seoul citizens, today I would like to restore some common sense to the Seoul Metropolitan Government by taking the first step toward establishing a normal workplace where irregular employees receive equal treatment to regular workers for doing the same job, and capable workers are not fired simply for the fact that they are irregular employees.

Starting May 1, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will convert its 1,054 irregular positions to regular positions. The irregular employees in these positions have been engaged in permanent and continuous tasks and will be hired as regular workers. In addition, in order to help prevent discrimination, workers in irregular positions that are not converted to regular ones will receive better benefits.

Now, I will announce our plan for the transition of irregular to regular jobs within Seoul Metropolitan City.

We have a total of six million irregular employees in our country, making up a significant proportion of the working population. They could be your parents, brothers and sisters, children, friends, or neighbors.

Specifically, 34 percent of workers in Seoul are irregular, while in Korea, six million people—or 34.2 percent of the total workforce—are irregular workers. Among them, 1.08 million, or 31.6 percent, are young workers in their 20s. As such, a significant percentage of the young work force, which represents the future of our country, is entering society under uncertain and discriminating conditions.

The greatest burden on irregular employees is uncertainty and discrimination. Knowing that one’s job could be terminated at any time creates constant stress. This is the harsh reality faced by irregular workers, half of which quit less than one year into their employment. They receive half the salary of regular workers for doing the same job, and are discriminated against in terms of bonuses, retirement benefits, national pension, and health insurance.

An irregular job is a short-sighted option that ignores the importance of investing in human resources for the sake of reducing labor costs. This might generate higher short-term profits, but will decrease efficiency due to the lack of continuity and professionalism. Furthermore, insecure and inferior jobs have led some workers to fall into poverty, which in turn has increased the polarization of our society.

The issue of irregular workers is not simply a labor issue, as its solution will lead to the greater integration of our society and promote sustainable growth.

Now, the Seoul Metropolitan Government wants to restore common sense in labor. We hope to make Seoul a city where diligent citizens are applauded, and hard working men and women are rewarded with prosperity and happiness.

We will hire regular employees to fill regular positions and perform regular tasks, thereby ensuring the happiness of our employees at their workplaces. Our investment in human resources will produce creative value added and ultimately lead to increased efficiency in our society. As such, starting May 1, Seoul Metropolitan City will begin designating 1,054 irregular workers who handle continuous, long-term tasks as regular workers. In order to keep the number of irregular jobs down, the positions that are being converted to regular ones will be filled by regular employees whenever there is any vacancy. And the irregular positions not being converted at this time will be provided better benefits, such as special bonuses on holidays.

In the first phase of this transition, irregular employees who meet certain requirements will be designated as regular workers.

For the second phase, which will be carried out in the second half of the year, we will prepare a measure to improve the benefits for irregular workers who are hired indirectly, such as privately commissioned jobs, dispatched jobs, and service jobs. Changes will also be made to the organizational system and pay scale for contractual employees with unlimited terms of employment. To support these measures, additional funding of KRW 6.23 billion will be allocated from the budget.

Creating workplaces where most of the positions are staffed by regular employees is a human resource investment that will ultimately strengthen our economy and society, and Seoul Metropolitan City will set the example. We will take the lead, thereby encouraging other public institutions and the private sector to follow suit.

Although our conversion measure may be belated, I believe it will go far toward relieving the long-term suffering and exhaustion of our irregular workers. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will become a pillar of support on which they can lean. Starting today, we have taken the first step in a long march toward restoring normalcy in our labor market. Completely solving the irregular job issue may be a long way off, but must still embark on the journey. Thank you.

You are all “first penguins.”


Address at the regular assembly of the Seoul Metropolitan Government

Date: March 21, 2012
Venue: Auditorium, Seoul City Hall Welfare Center

Dear members of the main office, headquarters, and bureaus of the Seoul Metropolitan Government
I am Park Won Soon.

Just a few minutes ago, I presented our First Penguin, a stuffed toy penguin. I wish I could have presented a better gift, but my position as mayor is more limiting than I had expected. So, instead, I offered a small gift with great sincerity.

To be honest, I should present a stuffed penguin to not only those present here today, but to every employee of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. I know the last few months have been tough, and that I was the one who made your work so challenging. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude to every member of our metropolitan government family for always going above and beyond and doing your absolute best.

I know it must be tough for the penguins as well. They have dangerous natural enemies, and although they love diving into the water, it must not be easy diving into such freezing cold water every time. But the penguins also know that if they do not go into the water, they cannot catch fish, protect and maintain their species, and above all, fulfill their reason for existence.

I am not the first penguin; rather, I believe that all of you are first penguins. There are many of you who have dedicated yourselves to undertaking the challenges of creating a new paradigm and new values and processes. The work was unfamiliar and difficult, but you managed to rise to those challenges.

On January 9, we announced the people-centered “Hope Seoul City Administration Operation Plan,” and followed that by the announcement of the public transportation fare adjustments and the “Management Innovation Plan,” something that we had long worked to achieve. Furthermore, the “New Town Renewal Project New Policy Initiative” was an excellent example of preemptive administration, and we even implemented the “Children’s Happy Saturday Project,” following the nationwide adoption of the five-day school week.

If I have not mentioned your department, bureau, or office, please do not be disheartened. Acknowledging all of the exceptional work you have done would take this regular assembly well into tomorrow morning. Together, we have accomplished so much that there is simply not enough time for me to mention every detail. This attests to the magnitude of your achievements as first penguins.

Dear members of the Seoul Metropolitan Government family,

Do you remember the famous words of Guus Hiddink, the Korean national football team coach? He said, “I’m still hungry.” And I am sure you all admire Steve Jobs. Although he has passed away, the words from his commencement address at Stanford University are still very much with us: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

Why do you think I have mentioned these quotes? Perhaps some of you are anxious, thinking that I’m about to give a long list of orders during this regular assembly. But I am neither Hiddink, nor Jobs, yet like them, I am an ambitious man. I can work all night, and I am still very hungry. To ensure the innovation and creativity of our city administration, and to achieve the happiness of our citizens, I will “stay hungry” and “stay foolish.”

But we must do this together. We may have to go a little bit slowly, but above all, we must do it together with the citizens. That is the only way the city can regain its vitality, and how the happiness of Seoul’s citizens can be sustained.

More importantly, it is really the only way to make the citizens happy. If we try to go it alone, it would be a lonely and exhausting journey, and perhaps, more likely to fail. We must work together so that we can each feel a sense of mission and value that go beyond our positions and salaries, and come to appreciate our lives together. Above all, I want to dream and carry out our plans together.

Yes, you will feel frustrated. As is the case in most companies and organizations, the leaders will serve as the first penguins and shout, “Follow me!” This makes things very clear, as the employees know where the responsibility lay, and the results are tangible. But in our case, you are asked to seek the opinions of citizens, discuss issues, regardless of position, and make decisions together with them. Considering the burden this will likely impose, you may have doubts, believing that nothing will get done that way.

But, beloved family of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, please think about it for a moment. Think of the many renowned cities around the world. Regardless of who their mayors are or what their philosophies may be, the cities that successfully maintain their individuality and achieve continuous development are the ones that are the most proud. These are the cities that ensure the quality of life of their citizens, and have done so for a long time.

Seoul is poised to do the same. Now, you and I are standing at a transition point.

In February, on the occasion of my 100th day in office, we adopted one hundred “seeds of hope” from among our various achievements during the last 100 days. Of these, the most popular was the “easing of parking restrictions in front of small restaurants during lunch hour” and the “Hope Ondol Project,” through which we ensured that not one single homeless person froze to death last winter. This was a small miracle achieved through cooperation with our citizens.

These small glimmers of hope filled us with positive emotions, but we did not stop there. Together, we devised the “Hope Seoul City Administration Operation Plan,” a rough sketch of the mid- to long-term plan for the design of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. In order to draw up this plan, we collected the opinions and requests of individual citizens through the SNS channel, Ask the Mayor, and at policy workshops and forums, as well as with the support of the “Hope Seoul Policy Advisory Committee,” an advisory body comprised of public and private businesses.

In this way, we managed to turn a considerable number of dreams into realities with the help of the citizens. They may be only small changes today, but I am confident that soon they will show remarkable results. Some evidence of this can already be seen.

Honorable first penguins,

The outlook and predictions based on the various economic indexes for this year are dim, and we have two major political events approaching, the general and presidential elections, giving us all the more reason to consolidate our focus on the administration of the city’s affairs. The more we work together, the more important becomes our decisions of selecting areas in which to concentrate our efforts. To ensure the successful implementation of major policies, I ask that you determine specific dates for policy goals and establish a detailed and systemic schedule to analyze and manage the progress made toward achieving those goals. Also, if we hope to improve the quality of our policy, we must first identify problems by listening to our citizens and work in the field to find the most realistic solutions.

Additionally, I ask that you put your best effort forward and consider things carefully so that our citizens may experience no inconvenience in their daily lives, nor suffer a single safety incident at any facility managed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, allowing them all to enjoy themselves at work.

In a few minutes, CEO Kim Ho will give a lecture on communication. He will elaborate on “Cool Communication,” a communication paradigm that involves responding to mistakes in modern society, where transparency and sincerity are growing increasingly important. He will show us a new direction and new ways to manage crises and conflicts and build trust, as well as how to improve interpersonal relationships. Taking these lessons to heart will be a huge help to the city administration and, in particular, in conflict mediation. I hope you enjoy listening to him.

Dear first penguins and members of the Seoul Metropolitan Government family,

I have dived into the cold water. I have dived into the water with you all. Although it may be unfamiliar and difficult at first, the fish we catch will not be only mine; they will be ours, and that of our citizens. I will always be indebted to you and dedicate myself to encouraging you in every endeavor you pursue, so please never give up. Thank you.

We Sincerely Hope that Jedori Can Swim Freely along the Gureombi Coast


Date: March 9, 2012

Venue: Seoul Grand Park

Today, I met the dolphins known as Jedori, Geumdeungi, and Daepo. To put your concerns to rest, I would like to assure you that all dolphins, including a Japanese dolphin, are being well cared for and protected. Many citizens have expressed their concerns about Jedori and given many good opinions. I have had only a short time to learn about the overall situation, but I did my best to review every single detail.

Jedori will soon be returned to his home, and I sincerely hope that he will be able to swim freely along the Gureombi Coast. To help him, I will seek ways to make sure that he is protected. Our plans will be carried out in consideration of the rights and happiness of Jedori and other dolphins like him.

One of the key factors in good city administration is finding the right places for talented human resources, taxpayers’ money, and many more elements. Of course, dolphins are included. As such, administration is about providing support and arbitration to ensure that the needed resources get to the right places.

Jedori was brought here through illegal poaching, and as I understand it, Seoul Grand Park is not legally responsible as it was not aware of the poaching in the first place. But now, Jedori needs to go back to Jejudo Island and swim freely in the ocean. After Jedori’s release, the dolphin show at the zoo will be suspended temporarily, but not permanently. I will seek the feedback and opinions of numerous experts and citizens, but of course, the goal here is to protect the rights of dolphins and ensure their happiness.

Also, several discussions have been held on the maintenance of Seoul Grand Park, and we hope to transform it into the world’s only zoo designed specifically for citizens. We will make this dream come true together with our beloved citizens.

Thank you.

Everything Leads to the Village

Special lecture on building village communities

Date: March 5, 2012
Venue: Seoul Human Resource Development Center

I believe that most people think the same way when they are desperate. And as rattlesnakes can recognize each other from 10 ri (3.9 kilometers) away, humans have developed the ability to communicate without speaking, in a manner. Therefore, I think you can sense my desperation right now.

I would like to ask you one very important question. What do you live for? Only when you know the answer to this question can you know what others live for, or what they truly desire. Then you can help them realize their desires and achieve their dreams.

What do Seoul’s citizens desire the most? (Happiness) That’s correct. It’s happiness. But few people know what they truly desire. When asked what they live for, many say money, wealth, or power. But, I think what people really want is happiness.

In the past, however, it was definitely money. When many Koreans were poor and starving, we needed and dreamed of abundant food, a large house, and a good school. But now that so many people have acquired these things, we must ask ourselves another question, “Why do we live like this?” Our parents wanted higher incomes, and they valued the GDP, or national income, as an indicator of Korea’s national growth and development.

Then, advanced countries with the highest GDPs began looking to the National Happiness Index as a better measure of happiness. Last year, before I was elected mayor, Goo Morgan invited me to a conference. Goo Morgan is the leader of an organization based in the U.K. and former policy director for Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is known for creating the future vision of the Labor Party. The theme of the conference was the development of the Happiness Index, and I learned that the OECD is now working on developing the index to replace the GDP as the main indicator of happiness. That is how I became so interested in the Happiness Index.

If I hadn’t been so busy running for mayor, I would have traveled to Bhutan. I was particularly interested in visiting the Hope Institute there. Many countries are striving to attract more tourists, but Bhutan strictly limits the number of tourists and requires visitors to pay fees in advance. A female intern at The Hope Institute was from Bhutan, and with her help and guidance, I was planning to write a book during ten days in Bhutan and take a trekking trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, which is not very far from Bhutan.

So, how can we create more happiness? A substantial amount of research has been done on happiness, and of course, it indicates that national income is a major factor. But it is not the only factor. While reading this book, I found that the most significant factor in achieving happiness is relationships. In other words, if we want to be happy, we must avoid alienation and loneliness, but our modern society tends to promote alienation. You all know that Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Many people here commit suicide due to poverty, but more often, they do it because they are lonely, especially among the elderly. As such, allowing people to live together with others in a community and feel a sense of belonging is a major task for our country. The more someone feels like they belong, the less likely they are to consider suicide.

A feeling of connectedness and belonging to a local community is incredibly important. I’m sure many of you remember what Korea was like in the past, except the younger generation. In my case, I grew up in a very poor rural village in the 1960s. People were struggling with impoverishment, and in spring, we often ran out of rice and barley. Nevertheless, whenever beggars came to our door, we never rejected them. When they came at meal time, we would give them a bowl of rice mixed with water. Though everyone was quite poor, none of the village residents starved to death. In our house, we had a sarangbang, a kind of guest room, where my father always slept, and my mother usually stayed in the main part of the house. The men of the village often gathered and talked in our sarangbang late into the night. In those days, my father did various odd jobs, including making straw rope. Sometimes, when strangers came to our home, my father let them in and gave them a place to sleep next to him. Do we welcome strangers into our homes like that these days? I think most people do not. Our world has become so dark and dreary, and people do not trust each other anymore. In a world like this, we cannot be happy.

It is particularly interesting that when I travel to developed countries and their cities, the people living in the villages and neighborhoods there are much more generous than ours. Whenever I ask them for help, they are incredibly kind and give me excellent guidance. European cities are particularly friendly. If you have traveled to such places, I’m sure you have noticed this. When I had difficulties and asked other drivers or shopkeepers for assistance, they were incredibly helpful. But in Korea, we do not even know who our own neighbors are or what is going on in our communities.

This is a problem many societies are now facing. When I visited Seoul’s Seongmisan community for interview, one of the most successful and thriving neighborhood communities in the city, I talked with Mr. Yu Chang-bok in a small café there. At one point while we were talking, he saw a child pass by the window and muttered, “Ah, that child’s class is not over yet.” I was impressed by how well he knows what is happening in his neighborhood and how well all the residents know each other. In a community like this, crime, such as murder, is virtually non-existent, and the residents live with the comfort of knowing they are safe.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government and gu offices spend 26 percent of their budget on welfare. With that money, they build senior citizens centers, welfare facilities for the elderly, daycare centers, and facilities for people with disabilities, but the operation of these facilities is not coordinated. In particular, the welfare facilities for senior citizens are like prisons for them. Some social welfare specialists even say that the kkotdongne (government-supported welfare institution run by Catholic priests to help the needy) amounts to anti-welfare. Why is that? Unless our senior citizens are allowed to engage in productive activities and develop their skills, they will not be happy. No matter how good the facilities they live in are, it will seem like a prison to them. Do you see what I mean?

The ideal welfare facility is an entire community. Through community relationships, people gain happiness and a sense of identity. But if they live alone, they become sick and unhappy. In neighborhood communities, everyone lives together—grandparents, children, and even the disabled. The elderly tell children the stories of their youth, and children show off their talents. I wish everyone could live together like this. I think that the welfare system of our country is completely misguided, because it does not aspire to this. A well-functioning local village community provides true welfare, and the Local Community Welfare Center is a part of the effort to achieve this.

Life is meant to be lived together, not separated from others. During my childhood, the other children and I used to play outside and eat or sleep at our friends’ homes. All the residents of the village took care of us. If I did something wrong, the grandmothers or grandfathers of my neighbors scolded me. Nowadays, if you scold your neighbors’ child, you might actually get slapped in the face. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Each village is a microcosm of India,” and I believe this to be true for the villages, communities, and cities of all countries. Amid the diversity of a community, we learn how to live, but now that we have lost many of our communities, there are many who learn how to live only by reading books in libraries. But we cannot learn about life holed up in a library. In the past, we learned about life without a college education. By meeting and gaining experiences with the various people within our neighborhoods, we built strong relationships with each other. However, these days, people have forgotten how to make relationships with others. In particular, we have lost the personality traits and leadership skills that help us lead a good life. Therefore, I believe that true welfare can be achieved through communities.

A strong local community helps create jobs and promote the economy. In Korea, large businesses have made significant contributions, but they fail to recognize that society is like a living organism. For example, in a pond, there is a food chain—an ecosystem—including everything from plankton to large snakeheads (a kind of fish). If we were to put only snakeheads in a pond, they would not survive, because all members of the ecosystem depend on one another. In reservoirs or lakes, there is a surprisingly large number of interdependent organisms living and growing together. Societies and economies are like this as well. A large corporation cannot exist alone; it must co-exist with small neighborhood shops and traditional markets. If we value only efficiency, then bigger is better. But there is much more of value in our society than that. As you all know, Korea’s industrial structure is vulnerable to external shock, and Seoul is particularly vulnerable. Also, it seems like the Korean economy is growing without creating jobs, and thus economic growth is not benefiting the residents of small communities.

Meanwhile, countries with well-established small- and medium-sized businesses enjoy economic stability. These countries include Taiwan and many European countries and cities, such as Bologna. They are achieving solid economic growth and are relatively insulated from external shocks. Mondragon, in Spain, is well-known for its cooperatives, which employ about 100,000 people and even launch satellites into orbit. In the absence of large corporations, the cooperatives there are embracing the livelihoods of the residents and protecting their economic security.

The United Nations has proclaimed 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives. But in Korea, there are very few cooperatives of any kind, while Europe has numerous housing cooperatives, accounting for 25 percent of all cooperatives. As a result, housing speculation is relatively non-existent in Europe. Such is the strength of the cooperatives. In Japan, I noticed that the biggest buildings in front of major stations are usually the Consumers Cooperatives Union buildings. What about in Korea? The largest building I found in front of a railway station is a department store. In Fukuoka, Japan, about two million households are members of the Green co-op cooperatives. The economies of such countries are very stable.

Now, let us consider housing for moment. Our so-called “New Town” districts have been designated and developed without any consideration of communities or community spirit. And which companies are building these New Towns? They are the construction companies of large conglomerates such as Hyundai, Samsung, and GS Group. Suppose we were to develop the Baeksa village or Jangsu village areas in Seongbuk-gu into village communities. Instead of completely demolishing the existing houses and building large apartment buildings, we would repair or renovate them. If we did so, what companies would we work with? We would go to the local shops that sell PVC pipes or other construction materials, reviving the local economy in the process.

I do not argue that large businesses should not exist, just that they need to grow globally, leaving small companies to reinvigorate neighborhood economies. If I had not been elected mayor, I would have used my time to carry out extensive research on the operation of cooperatives. Since lawyers possess valuable professional knowledge, the legal fees they charge are very high, and the general public has no choice but to pay what they demand. To relieve this burden, I would organize a “legal consumer cooperative” with 100,000 members, and it would provide legal services to citizens at a much more reasonable cost. Car repair shops are another issue. Mechanics sometimes charge considerably high prices, but many people cannot know whether the repairs were done correctly. In Japan, they have the Shaken Cooperative—an automobile inspection cooperative—that protects consumers of automobile repairs. I have prepared a plan to establish a similar automobile inspection cooperative in Korea. I believe with these two ideas alone, we could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

I had a meeting with the director of the Policy Division this morning, and it was clear that there are plenty of jobs that can be created. So, I asked him to conduct job expos on various themes. We can create jobs through neighborhood community initiatives and recycling projects. For example, in Europe, early in the morning, you can find many farmers markets and flea markets opening their doors. In the U.K., there is a weekend market stretching about 10 kilometers, with mobile vendors selling products out of their cars. There are people selling old maps, candlesticks, and dishes, to name only a few. Antic shops alone could create tens of thousands jobs nationwide. Urban agriculture could also provide plenty of new jobs. As the five-day school week is implemented at schools in Korea, our children will need more fun and interesting activities to occupy their time, creating more business opportunities, such as a business teaching them about the dignity of life.

If I could make my own neighborhood in Seoul, I would make one with around 30 used book stores. Each book store would have its own specialty—poems, novels, or foreign books, for example. This alone would make the neighborhood well-known among the residents of Seoul. Similarly, another neighborhood could specialize in handicrafts. That would attract a lot of tourists. Or we could imagine a neighborhood of flowers, where all the houses along the small streets are covered with rose bushes. There are many parks in the U.K. with wonderful rose gardens. Keukenhof, in the Netherlands, is a village famous for planting tulips in rice paddies, thus filling each field with the same color tulip. We could do the same with a rose garden in Guro-gu. I think it would become famous quite quickly. These kinds of activities would increase spending and revitalize the economies of local communities.

The other day, I went to Seoul City Wall. The landscape of the wall was really beautiful, and I thought that we should redevelop the neighborhoods near the wall as well, not just restore the wall itself. We could have cafés and secondhand bookstores set up shop all along the 18-kilometer wall, reviving the neighborhoods all throughout the area. I am currently carrying out a study on how we can invigorate communities near Seoul City Wall. Recently, we held a seminar on reducing energy consumption in Seoul by an amount equivalent to that produced by one nuclear power plant. In connection with this, I learned of a village called Seongdaegol in Sangdo 3-dong. The housewives have united to establish energy conservation measures in their neighborhood, and their efforts are resulting in substantial energy savings. If we establish similar energy self-sufficient neighborhoods in Seoul, I believe this would attract many visitors. I also visited Dandelion Village in Hamyang, where everyone is engaged in energy saving efforts.

In order to successfully undertake such initiatives, it is important to have a good neighborhood leader. Performing the job of a neighborhood leader can be more difficult than serving as the president of a country. There is an old saying, “When cousin buys a real estate, you get a stomachache,” meaning we feel jealous of our neighbor’s success, which explains why it is often difficult for people in one neighborhood to work together. I would like to tell you about Ju Hyeong-no, head of the village in Hongdeok-myeon, Hongseong-gun. He had completed only up to high school, having been the last of 14 students to pass the entrance examination. But, the president of the school told him, “You have great potential for improvement since you got 20 points on the first examination. I’m sure you can improve your score by 80 points.” So the president brought him books whenever he returned from a visit to Japan. While reading those books, Ju learned how to increase rice yields using ducks. Thanks to his efforts, Korea now has a larger area of rice paddies using ducks than Japan. Ju told me that as head of the village, it was very difficult to coordinate interests and resolve conflicts among the villagers.

There is also the case of Daraengyi Village, in Namhae. As it was largely dependent on agriculture, the village was particularly vulnerable to drought, and the people often complained about the drought-prone location of their village. However, as the scenery of the rice paddies was so beautiful, tourists started visiting this place, and many of them stayed overnight. To capitalize on this, the head of the village launched a website for accommodations in the village, while refraining from running such business himself, as he worried the villagers would doubt his intentions. However, the residents who did not operate any lodging grew unhappy. So, half of the income from the lodging businesses was collected into a village fund, and as the elderly residents passed away, day laborers were hired to handle the farm work. This village leader was truly wonderful, and I have included this story in my book. It is an example of the proper mindset of a village leader. In Seoul, I think we have many such leaders in our neighborhoods and communities.

Since I was elected mayor, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been speaking of village communities quite often. The idea of a village community sounds unfamiliar to many, but in fact, it is more familiar to us than we realize as it is the kind of place where we were born and lived as children. But for the past several decades, we have abandoned our neighbors in order to make a living, and no longer know where our children spend their time. We have abandoned happiness, and are taking a path leading us in what I believe to be the wrong direction. There is still value in “community”. Although we use the word “community,” we have forgotten the meaning of “village community,” but it will come back to us soon.

There is one way to solve many of the problems we now face, and that is to restore our local communities. We have invested a lot in festivals, but have we incorporated festivals into our culture? A festival is born through tradition, history, and the common experiences of a neighborhood. A good festival cannot be created in a place where there is no active village community. Everything leads to the village.

I believe that our society will change very rapidly in the next five years, during which time Korean society will have come to place as much emphasis on “community” as any other advanced country. Whether I like it or not, Korean society is making U-turn. It is what some call a “mega trend”.

I Will Bring our Youth Closer to their Dreams

Congratulatory Address at the Entrance Ceremony of the University of Seoul

Date: February 28, 2012
Venue: University of Seoul

Hello, everyone! I am Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul.

I sincerely congratulate you all and offer you a warm welcome. You cannot imagine how delighted I am to meet you.

My heart and soul go out to you at this wonderful time in your lives. I am so happy to have this opportunity to congratulate you, our youth, and wish you success in the future. Through you, I hope to bless the future of our society.

Sometimes, I’m sure it seems as if the older generation is all of one mind. Yet, with that concerted mind, the decision to cut tuition in half at the University of Seoul was made.

Some raised concerns about this, but I truly believed in the “butterfly effect,” that a small change can lead to tremendous consequences, and a small movement can create dramatic change. The “half-tuition policy” of your prestigious institution has influenced many other universities, and will continue to influence more and more universities. As such, your school is the first down a path of growth. Student-centered administration and transparent finance—achieved to support learning and the welfare of students—will be great assets for you.

And the half-tuition policy is only the beginning. The University of Seoul will provide you with real learning experiences.

You want to build your capabilities? You want to get a decent job? I understand that, but pursuing qualifications only for the sake of landing a job is not the right way. You must not focus on only getting a job. Qualifications and employment are huge traps created by the world. It is a structure from which nobody comes out a winner.

Let’s say all 2,000 people here today compete for 200 jobs. Then, basically, 1,800 people will be losers. Does that mean those 200 people are winners? The person who ranked 200th among all of you, how will that person feel? Now, those lucky 200 will be up for another round of endless competition. Even if all 200 manage to get jobs, they will retire in their early 50s.

However, your generation may well expect to see average life expectancies of up to 120 years. So, after retiring at 50, what will you do for the remaining 70 years of your life?

I am not saying that having a job is bad or studying is useless. However, having a job without a dream and studying only for your own benefit is just not enough. You must foster your creativity, contribute to society, and above all, become a truly productive member of a community who lives together with others. And it is true that the University of Seoul is the best place to learn how to accomplish this.

I think the most important thing for you to keep in mind is your dream. What I want to accomplish as the mayor of Seoul is to bring our younger generation closer to their dreams.

Anyone can become poor, and anyone can become rich. Anyone can become ill, and anyone can recover from illness. In the same way, anyone can have a dream.

I believe that we all have the right to dream. A society where this right is not guaranteed for the members of the community and the youth, in particular, is very dangerous. Without this right, the future is not guaranteed. Without dreams, our youth lose hope, and if they lose hope, our future vanishes.

So, I am here to encourage you to pursue a more prosperous future for yourselves. Also, I would like to be remembered as the one who successfully motivated our youth to achieve their dreams. I want to congratulate you on your accomplishment and thank you as well. I also thank all the parents here for educating your kids so well and guiding them to select the University of Seoul. I really appreciate all of your hard work.

The University of Seoul will do its best to nurture our youth as well as their dreams.

Thank you.

It is time to take the next step in securing true happiness for women.

Appointment of Members to the Gender Equality Commission and General Assembly

Date: February, 28, 2012
Venue: Main Conference Hall, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall

It is a great honor for me to launch the 1st Gender Equality Commission in the presence of representatives of Korea’s women’s community and participants with such great interest and concern in women’s issues. I also extend my deep appreciation to all members who have joined us despite their busy schedules.

Paradoxically, I wish Seoul was a city that did not need a gender equality commission, and that it was a city where universal gender equality had already been established as a common value. Of course, even if this were the case, we would still need to maintain our concern for gender equality to ensure the happiness of all citizens. The reality is, however, that Korean society desperately needs the Gender Equality Commission, and its members have a very important role to play. I apologize for placing such a burden on you from the beginning, but I hope you will all be committed to your work with pride, self-respect, and passion. Your dedication will shape Seoul’s policies on gender equality and establish the firm foundation upon which we will achieve remarkable progress.

So far, the women’s policies of the Seoul Metropolitan Government have been focused on removing obstacles and providing greater stability in the lives of women, but now we are at a stage where we really must take the next major step to secure true happiness for women. We must do more. We must go beyond creating a society where women need not worry about giving birth and raising children, and where they are given the opportunity to balance their work and domestic life. The diverse community of women must strive to secure their rightful place as a full members of our society—a society where their hopes and dreams can come true. Achieving these goals will require promoting the values of gender equality and implementing effective policies.

Policies on gender equality are no longer a choice but a necessity. If we procrastinate any longer, our society will become mired in its prejudiced conception of human rights, and we will fail to secure the diverse creativity needed to drive our future growth.

In order to avoid this bleak scenario, last month, the Seoul Metropolitan Government adopted an authorization system that takes into account gender perspectives when making critical policy decisions. In addition, among the policy projects pursued by all departments and bureaus, we will select the ten major policies with the greatest potential impact on citizens and analyze the impact of each on both genders, making sure that women’s perspectives and experiences are reflected. In a few minutes, the deputy of the Women and Family Policy Affairs Department will elaborate on this in greater detail.

We look to you to strongly criticize any inappropriate policies, and when you have any good ideas, please inform us so that we can use them to make policy. We respect and value your opinions and insights. Thank you. 

Seoul City will back up your enthusiasm and determination with policies

Workshop on a policy to halve the cost of gosiwons

Date: February 14, 2012
Venue: 5th floor, Seongbo Building, Yeongdeungpo-gu

It is very saddening to hear about the reality of Seoul as described by President Park Cheol-su. Unfortunately, there are many citizens in Seoul facing a stark reality in terms of housing. Some live in particularly poor conditions, such as in gosiwons (facilities with a number of small single-room accommodations), flophouses, saunas, comic book stores, inns, or internet cafes. As Kim Seong-tae and Kim Gil-won mentioned, the tiny rooms, poor sanitation, old toilets, and low-quality instant noodles in these facilities are similar to the living conditions in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century. Amid the sprawling industrial cities of the time, some people were entirely alienated and forgotten. Surprisingly, the same is happening in Seoul in the 21st century.

I am keenly aware that many of our citizens are suffering and living in despair, and as mayor I feel an acute sense of responsibility. You told us that you are hopeful because the government and the people have not abandoned you, and as long as the attention and interest are maintained, you can still live on. And I agree with you. I believe our continuous attention and care can solve these problems.

I visited several gosiwons and the flophouse village today, and what you have told us is quite informative and is awakening to me to the need of a new policy. In particular, Park Cheol-su talked about non-profit gosiwons, gosiwons for lease, special laws, and investor organizations, and you told us that we need to find solution by collecting and testing these ideas. Also, by combining various policies as Dr. Seo Jeong-gyun proposed, we should be able to develop a realistic and practical policy. I have heard your opinion that activists involved in this issue should be allowed to participate in policymaking. And although that might sound good, it is not how it should be done. Policymaking is the job of government employees. It is their responsibility to study and analyze various ideas and develop and select feasible, realistic solutions that conform to the current budget and laws, and then they must discuss the policies with you.

As you mentioned, the answer is here. Though quite unfamiliar to me, while attending this meeting, I am regaining hope. I had never before heard of the small advocacy groups named “Let’s Do It,” “Firefly,” or “Supporting Cast,” while I had heard of self-help communities such as the Yongma community and Solidarity for the Livelihood of People.

The support and policies of the central government and the Seoul Metropolitan Government would be incomplete without the enthusiasm and will to carry them out. Fortunately, we have people who are seeking solutions on their own despite the hardship and despair involved, and if such determination is combined with the policies of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, good results will definitely be achieved. The purpose of today’s meeting is not to find an immediate answer, but to take a first step toward establishing a practical policy. Meetings such as this are incredibly valuable.