Date: November 16, 2011
Venue: Mayor’s Office, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall
Beloved, honorable citizens of Seoul,
I am Park Won Soon, mayor of Seoul Metropolitan City.
Today marks my 21st day in office. Although I still feel somewhat uncomfortable in my position as mayor, it feels as if several months have passed already. As I took the reins of the city’s affairs, I realized that Seoul indeed had her fair share of complicated problems and difficult challenges.
Above all, my greatest concern is the New Town Project, through which too many residents have been forced to abandon their homes and communities. Furthermore, the aggravation of the housing lease problem, declining number of jobs, growing fear in conventional markets and among local businesses, reduced competitiveness of small self-employed businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the increasing number of irregular workers are problems that all call for new solutions.
And that is not all. The heavy snow in winter and torrential downpours and mountain landslides in the summer are also issues that I have found worrisome for quite some time now. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has a mountain of debt, and yet, there are many areas that require greater funding. In the face of this Herculean challenge, I wondered how I could possibly justify holding an inauguration ceremony? But, after further consideration, I realized that this was not an inauguration ceremony for me, Park Won Soon, but for the citizens of Seoul, and that it would serve as an opportunity to discuss the dire reality that faces us, as well as the bright future that lies ahead of us as a city.
Esteemed citizens of Seoul,
The problems facing Seoul are highly complex, and recognizing the severity of these many problems and acknowledging them for what they are is the fastest way to finding the solutions.
More importantly, we must properly re-establish the value of what is “new” in order to enter a new era. The phenomena where the top one percent dominates the other 99 percent, where the winners take all and the majority is left behind and so many are devastated by excessive competition is not my idea of a just society. Furthermore, destroying the environment with reckless development, thereby causing pain to following generations, cannot be permitted in a sustainable society. I want to administer Seoul in a way that allows it to become a model for local autonomies nationwide and enables other regions of the country to join in our prosperity. After all, Seoul and the local regions are one.
Citizens of Seoul,
Above all, as mayor, I will pursue the welfare of the citizens and strive to make Seoul a more kind and compassionate place to live. I will commit myself to achieving an equitable quality of life and minimum level of welfare for all citizens, whether they live in Gangnam or Gangbuk. The provision of free, green lunches at schools, expansion of national and public childcare facilities, improvement of the status and rights of women and people with disabilities, protection of the elderly, and provision of jobs are no longer problems we can leave for individuals to solve on their own. As such, I now declare that this winter, there will be no man, woman, or child who sleeps hungry and cold under the open sky of Seoul.
Welfare is not free, but neither is it a waste. Welfare is akin to a savings account for the people with the highest rate of interest; it is an investment in the future that will produce profits greater than any other venture. The dichotomy between welfare and growth is no longer relevant. The past ten years have confirmed that growth does not necessarily bring welfare, rather, today welfare drives growth. We must break away from the shame of being labelled as the country with the lowest level of welfare among OECD countries. Therefore, I want to declare that welfare is not a hand out, but a civil right.
As mayor, I dream of a new Seoul—a community where the poor and the rich live together; a city where nature is maintained in its original state; a space where culture and the arts are a part of life. I dream of a Seoul that feels like a small hometown and makes history and memories come alive. I hope for a city that stands out without having to vie for attention; a city that is beautiful without having to decorate itself; a city that, while not glamorous, has all of the fundamentals in place; a city that is simple, frugal, and safe.
Beloved, honorable citizens of Seoul,
I will lead the city administration with positive energy rather than negative force, and with the power of cooperation and coordination instead of conflict and confrontation. I will listen to what you have to say, and through communication and shared understanding, I will support you in living better and more comfortable lives. In every area and stage of city administration, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is open to hearing your aspirations and opinions. You are the captain, navigator, and helmsman of the huge ship called “Seoul,” on which I have just boarded. So, I ask you to join me on this new voyage for our city on the waves of a new history.
The mayor is a citizen, and the citizens are the mayors.