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[2015] Mayor’s Speech

  • Let us Build New History and New Future

  • [2015] Mayor’s Speech SMG 1492

    Lecture in Waseda University
    Date February 1, 2015 | Venue Waseda University, Japan

    Good morning. I am very pleased to be here today. I am Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul Special City. Before this speech, I would like to pray for the souls of the departed, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, who were executed by IS. I share your shock, pain, and sorrow, and I send my deepest sympathy. I am now visiting Japan under the theme of city safety, and I vow that we will seek greater security and counter-terrorism co-operation between cities to safeguard against all possible dangers.

    Today is a very meaningful day for me, as my visit to Japan is my first overseas trip in 2015, marking the 70th anniversary of liberation day and the Korean War as well as the 50th anniversary of normalization of the diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan. Above all, I am truly pleased and honored to be here with you, the students of Waseda University, one of the top universities in Japan, and the citizens of Tokyo.

    Waseda University is considered to be one of Japan’s most prestigious and traditional universities. It is considered to be the ivory tower of politics, economy, education, and intelligence, producing seven prime ministers including Kaifu Toshiki, Keizō Obuchi, Obuchi Keizo, and Mori Yoshiro, as well as prominent CEOs. It even produced Murakami Haruki, the writer of “Norwegian Wood’, who has a great deal of global fans, including Koreans.

    I have actually visited Waseda University before. When I visited the civil society of Japan for three months from September to November in 2000, Waseda University was one of the most memorable places of my trip. I was so impressed by its academic tradition and magnificence, and amazed by the dignity of the library holding nearly 5 million volumes of books.

    As I was beginning my career as a civic activist in Korea at that time, I looked around every corner of the country to learn about Japan and its civil society from civic activists’ eyes, who pursued conventional values and norms. I also wrote a book about my experience with the country and its people, featuring my interviews with members of the civil society. It was published in both Korea and Japan.

    If I could put the impression I got from politicians, civic activists, and citizens into two words, it would be sincerity and admiration. What I found in the country were vibrant local communities and campaigns, a sturdy broader community, different from the western world’s public society, based on laws congregated by the individual’s conscience, efforts, and dedication. I also found a living tradition of cooperation based on sincerity of both individuals and groups.

    In particular, the power of citizens and civil society organizations in Japan, which guide changes from big to small based on a strict decentralization process, greatly affected my path toward the civil society movement in Korea. Isn’t there an expression the Japanese often use, ‘Machizukuri [community-building]’? I was really envious of the community-building aimed at creating a local community that is healthy, vibrant, and energetic.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I am one of the rare mayors in Korea who knows Japan well. I have visited Japan quite often and done in-depth research as I traveled throughout the country. As you can see in this picture, it is not an exaggeration to say that I went all over the country.

    Whenever I come to Japan, I usually leave with a light heart feeling like moving from one town to another by city bus. Since Tokyo is only two hours away from Seoul, it is actually much closer than moving to another region within the same country. Korea and Japan, Seoul and Tokyo, are nearest neighbors like this. I believe we also share an emotional bond. Don’t you agree?

    Isn’t there a saying in Japan that goes, “A good neighbor is better than a distant cousin”? Korea has the same one. We are neighbors who are very close to each other. Nevertheless, we also have had an unfortunate love-hate relationship as strong as our ties. There has been historical tragedy in the past, and we still have historical issues we need to face and address.

    However, Korea and Japan have coexisted for more than 1,500 years. During this time we’ve learned from each other through close exchanges, cooperation, and the spread of ideas and cultures. We also cohosted the World Cup in 2002 successfully.

    We are very much alike in appearance, lifestyle, systems, and laws. People around the world are unable to distinguish Koreans from Japanese. We also have very similar problems; an aging society, a low birth rate, youth unemployment, and energy issues are common matters our two nations are facing, and we need to overcome them together.

    If both nations, which have so much in common, work together with an open mind in the global community of the 21st century, I firmly believe that we can promise a new history and usher in a new era. If we put our heads together and come together to provide a path toward a sustainable future, work on energy and environmental conservation, settle our common city issues, and work towards the discovery of a new driving force, a new history and the path toward a bright future will soon be upon us. Urban diplomacy is the starting point.

    The 21st century is the era of local-to-local and people-to-people. It is my belief that small actions that transcend nationalism will lead us to a clue that can resolve unsettled national and diplomatic issues.

    The visit of Masujoe Yoichi, the governor of Tokyo, to Seoul last July held a symbolic significance for initiating inter-city urban diplomacy. Even Korean newspapers carried a special article on his visit with great interest. His visit led to the enhancement of substantial exchanges between businesses as well as an improvement of relations between Seoul and Tokyo that went far beyond mere symbolism.

    Both cities are now involved in communication and exchanges more enthusiastically than at any other time in history, carrying out disaster relief operations together to secure city safety, expanding exchanges and cooperation in tourism and culture, and acting jointly on air quality improvement and climate change issues. This multi-layered solidarity and cooperation between cities and citizens beyond the exclusive national interest will eventually become a threshold for the settlement of national conflicts and challenges.

    To achieve this, mutual communication is the most important thing among a host of issues. I usually interpret the point of the quote by Aristotle, “Human beings are social animals” in two ways: humans are beings who can communicate, and beings who can cooperate. As there is a saying, “We were born to work together like feet and hands (Marcus Aurelius)”, humans are social beings who can communicate and cooperate.

    So today, the main theme of my lecture is the power of communication, and a new policy direction for communication and urban diplomacy of Seoul, designed to suggest to people living in the 21st century, the Urban Era, how we can resolve urban issues, why communication matters, what consequences communication and cooperation will bring about by following in our footsteps, and introducing some exemplary policy cases of Seoul city. In addition, we will have a discussion where we can set a new direction for urban diplomacy in the globalization era as well as between Korea and Japan.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the world is now undergoing a rapid urbanization. According to the UN, half of the world population resides in a city, a number projected to reach nearly 70 percent by 2050. Furthermore, we will have 12 additional mega cities with at least 10 million people by 2020.

    People flock to cities in search of a better job and a more pleasant living environment. As more and more people move to cities, they have transformed themselves into powerful hubs of creativity, development, and innovation; indeed, the greatest inventions of all time have all been produced in cities. However, we are still facing serious problems underneath the surface of economic success and affluence: poverty, air pollution, environment pollution, energy problems, lack of housing, traffic issues, crime, and unemployment. Many global issues we are suffering today originated in cities; therefore, cities have a responsibility to become major global players in change and innovation.

    Seoul, the largest city of Korea, with a population of 10 million, is also facing increasing challenges caused by urbanization. As you might already know, Korea achieved the fastest and most compressed economic growth in the world. During this short period, the country achieved major goals of modernization such as rapid industrialization, the democratization of an authoritarian regime, and the so-called “Miracle on the Hangang River.” At the center of these changes was Seoul, the capital city of Korea.

    After the Korean War in 1950, the quality of life in Seoul was abysmal. Infrastructure like roads, water service, and sewerage was far from adequate and was highly unsanitary; as a result, epidemics spread rapidly throughout the entire city. Korea’s GNP per capita was only 82 dollars, and the unemployment rate was unimaginably high. Since then, however, Seoul has grown into a world-class city in just 3 decades. Management systems led by authorities and experts including Seoul’s Ten Year Plan and the Basis Plan for Seoul enabled the city to achieve rapid and efficient urbanization as well as the successful construction of infrastructure and city expansion.

    However, there are still side effects and conflicts behind the glorious achievement of rapid growth. Regional imbalance and conflict between classes, urban sprawl, and environmental pollution have emerged as pending issues that cannot be concealed or avoided any longer.

    We still have numerous problems that will have to be resolved such as issues regarding safety, welfare, education, child caring, unemployment, polarization, energy, suicide, super-aged society, low birth rate, and crime. How then is the city of Seoul coping with these issues?

    I declared that I would become a mayor who could change the life of the citizens under the slogan, “Citizens are the mayors” at my inauguration. Based on this principle, I have innovated a city policy development with enhanced governance together with citizens. Private-governmental agencies and businesses comprised of citizens, experts, and enterprises are working together to alleviate the pending issues through communication, engagement, and governance. The government of Seoul is therefore not alone.

    I have been pushing forward innovation since then. Soon after taking office, I strived to promote innovation in my administration by setting up the Seoul Innovation Center, the first of its kind among local governments in the country. I also created a new title, ‘conflict adjusting officer,’ so that we could strengthen understanding and minimize possible conflicts among our ten million citizens.

    The core of the innovation in city administration was, of course, the realization of the motto, ‘Citizens are mayors’. Therefore, all the efforts for innovation we have made have served as a path toward a city where we can dream together, create together, enjoy together, and lead a happy life. In this respect, the SMG is currently shifting the fundamental paradigm of its administration. Instead of a heavy bureaucracy in which officials are just sitting at desks and thinking of the policies, we are moving toward citizen-centric administration, citizens’ office, and a field-centered administration. This is the SMG’s communication administration, the so-called “Mayor, Won-Soon Style.” How then is the communication administration being operated?

    To better communicate, we must first learn how to listen. The SMG uses the character ‘Chung,’ meaning listening rather than speaking, and often holds Listening Policy Debates so that we can listen to the voices of citizens. When we handle pending issues or come up with new policies for the future, we politely invite our citizens to listen to them first. After close examination, we develop them into policies.

    From the time I took office to January of this year, a total of 12,000 people participated in a total of 90 Listening Policy Debates, including a counterplan for ultra-fine particles, which was directly reflected into the SMG’s policy. In addition, deliberation joined by experts is now becoming a forum for debate where we can collect contrary views and make the SMG’s policies more sophisticated.

    As the old saying goes, “seeing is believing.” It is also an important administration principle to meet citizens in person on the spot and listen to their voices. Since my inauguration, I have operated a so-called “On-spot Office” by relocating my office to a given neighborhood and staying there to better understand the challenges, and I have visited as many as 120 times. On my first visit, I was often grabbed by the collar by citizens, and I heard boos saying, “Leave office!” However, after carefully concentrating on their small voices and looking for countermeasures together, I was eventually told by some people, “I have become a fan of you.” We can solve the problems more easily if we visit the field, and I strongly believe the answer exists in the neighborhoods themselves.

    The SMG has successfully achieved administration innovation aimed at improving the transparency of administration through openness, disclosure, and sharing, as well as by strengthening accountability. After being disclosed by 3,672 date sets at open data squares and automatic systems for disclosure of administrational information, approximately 351 pieces of administrational information are now freely available to citizens of Seoul, becoming a repository of new information and value creation.

    In keeping with the current generation of mobile citizens, online communication channels have been opened with smartphones in the lead. Administration innovation through SNS literally ushered in a new era of administration at the speed of light. As the mayor of the city, the number of my SNS followers already exceeds 1.5 million, including 1 million on Twitter, and my SNS is now becoming an open complaints office and Agora for public opinion. Are there any of my followers here? If you request to follow me, I will follow you back right away.

    One day in 2012, I found a message on my twitter saying, “Dear mayor, I am a bus driver working at ○○ of Seoul City Bus. As the corporation habitually delays payment of wages, bus workers are having a hard time. Please settle this issue for us.” I immediately delivered this message on twitter to Seoul Traffic Control HQ.

    Four days later, I got a message from the same driver saying, “Thank you so much, mayor. Overdue wages were deposited into our bank accounts yesterday. More than 300 Bus workers are truly grateful to you. I did not expect it to be settled so soon, and I am now able to do something for my kids on Children’s Day.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is how Seoul is run at the moment.

    The messages do not stop there. “Mayor, the wheelchair lift at the subway station was broken.” “It is uncomfortable to walk on the broken pavement in front of my place.” “A repulsive smell is coming from the food garbage can.” After looking through the voices of every single person, I pass them to the workers at the related department right away, and citizens’ blunt and candid advice always turns into laughter.

    There was another message that read, “I am really touched. I found a phone booth in front of an elementary school, which could be dangerous, so I took a picture of it and sent it to the mayor. Surprisingly, it was demolished within just two weeks. While I was wondering if it was me, I got a message back! It was because of me! Wow. I cannot believe my opinion can change the world! Thank you so much, mayor. Actually, I did not expect my small voice to be reflected into policy. I feel like I became a mayor.” Whenever I get these messages from our citizens, I sometimes think, “I am so blessed and lucky to be the mayor of Seoul,” even though my body and mind are tired. Citizens’ happiness is my happiness.

    In this way, the SMG is moving ahead to achieve ‘the dream of Seoul’ through governance and innovation step by step while communicating with citizens, and is on the way to alleviating urban issues. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the governance and innovation I have always emphasized will become the wings that will make the dream of Seoul come true.

    Our ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ project, designed to proactively respond to energy and environmental issues, was also a result of communication and cooperation with our citizens. In 2011, the nuclear accident in Fukushima aroused an intense interest in safe and sustainable energy, and became a great motivation for us to reflect on our energy policy, especially in the city of Seoul, where electricity suspended from local regions can cause total paralysis in the city.

    The SMG pondered how to overcome the energy crisis along with our citizens. We conducted studies, discussed, and put our heads together to figure out how to save energy and how to increase our dependency on eco-friendly energy instead of fossil fuels. This is how the ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ initiative, which many believed to be impossible, was born, aimed at saving 2 million TOE per nuclear unit. The initiative is a gift for the next generation, as it is based on the three areas of energy production, efficiency, and saving, and is considered to be a great achievement sparked by trust and the responsibility of making the impossible possible.

    Our citizens have also actively engaged in creating a solar power plant by setting up solar systems at home and school. ‘Eco Mileage,’ which offers incentives on energy conservation, was joined by 1.7 million people and encouraged citizens to save energy in their households, schools, and workplaces. Even children and youngsters, the next generation, took the lead as the guardian angels of energy conservation. Many citizens joined the ‘Happy Earth Hour,’ a movement uniting people to switch off their electricity to protect the planet for one hour on the 22nd of every month. People’s perception of energy has changed, and public participation has expanded over time. The saying, ‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’ has become a reality.

    In June 2014, the SMG finally achieved its goal of reducing 200 TOE 6 months earlier than expected through the active participation and support of citizens. Our passion for this seemingly impossible goal eventually made us step closer to our dream of becoming an energy-independent city.

    Finally, our work has been recognized and praised throughout the world. UN Public Service Awards, the World Green Building Council’s Climate Action Leadership Award, WWF, and the C40 & Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards began to notice the SMG’s ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ initiative and awarded us with many honors. The initiative received a favorable evaluation for providing a successful and exemplary model of regional energy policy through system improvement and unique business projects despite having the limitations of being a local government.

    Seeing substantial results made from the SMG-launched energy saving campaign (Let’s Reduce the Number of Nuclear Power Plants), other local Korean governments, international organizations, and cities in foreign countries have contacted us to understand more about what we are doing. We at the SMG have started Phase-2 of the campaign in a bid to switch from being a city of energy consumption to a city of energy conservation. If Phase-2 is successfully carried out, Seoul’s energy self-reliance will go up to 20%, with 4 million TOE of energy saved and 10 million tons of greenhouse gases reduced. With large cities taking a responsible stance on energy and the environment, the world will be able to move along the path of a sustainable future more easily. It is appropriate to think that we are using the Earth as a gift borrowed from forthcoming generations; we should return it to them in good condition.

    We are also engaging in many other projects, like building neighborhood communities and sharable cities, and focusing on urban regeneration in collaboration with citizens. Such projects are instrumental in solving the problems facing Seoul, and help it become a city with a sustainable future where people live as members of a community.

    Why don’t we stop for a moment and see how Seoul is changing? (Showing of a film)

    As you saw in the film, Seoul is changing through the participation of people and businesses. Collaborative governance is being carried out through communication and participation. Innovation brought forth by collaborative governance is driving changes in Seoul. Even in the future, innovation will remain the driving force of changes, and collaborative governance will serve as a stepping-stone for integration of new ideas.

    As a result of these consistent efforts, Seoul was ranked 6th in the Global Power City Index (GPCI) by the Mori Memorial Foundation of Japan for three consecutive years (2012, 2013, and 2014). In addition, Seoul was ranked first in the world e-government evaluation (2013), was included in the Top-5 Convention Cities for three years in a row (2011 through 2013), and selected as the Best International Business Meetings Destination for two straight years (2012 and 2013). The number of tourists visiting Seoul has grown to what is now more than ten million a year. So far, 22 cities in 21 countries have asked the SMG to provide them with materials on exemplary administrative ideas and steps formulated and taken by it.

    The world has now entered an era of cities and countries collaborating with each other, encouraging communication and exchanges between cities, regions, and people beyond national borders. We are living in a global community sharing the same destiny. Problems experienced by one city are not confined to that city or even that country. The problems faced by Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, and New York are becoming those shared by people all over the world.

    Seoul and Beijing are making joint efforts to reduce climate change and improve air quality. Representatives of 13 cities including Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo met in New York last September and announced a joint statement that that they would solve with the problem of air pollution by setting targets for reduction of air pollution for individual cities.

    The ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) – Local Governments for Sustainability, which has 1,000-plus cities and autonomous organizations in 86 countries as members, is carrying out activities for the goal of sustainable cities, recognizing that cities and local governments need to play a leading role in solving problems faced by cities. The ICLEI World Congress will be held in Seoul in April this year, an event designed to strengthen the collaboration between the relevant parties concerning how to deal with global climate change.

    Needless to say, urban problems should be solved by cities. As former New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia put it, “There is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.” In trying to solve urban problems, we should consider what is needed the most for people’s happiness and choose the wisest ways to solve the problems regardless of ideologies or political views.

    Cities in Korea and Japan should now open a new page of collaboration, expanding the scope to economic, social, and cultural issues. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the colonial rule by Japan and the 50th anniversary of the normalization of the diplomatic relationship between Korea and Japan, the two countries should strive together to open the door to a new era.

    At present, Korea and Japan are going through difficulties in their bilateral relationship. As for the overall current situation of East Asia, countries have yet to overcome the barriers formed by history. I sincerely wish to see Koreans and Japan face reality, review the past together, and think about how to march forward, setting joint visions and directions.

    It is pointed out that Koreans and Japanese find it difficult to see each other as they are, as they see through magnifying glasses or sunglasses. We should not commit the folly of repeating the tragic past, and instead we should try to understand each other without sunglasses, reviewing the past honestly, and looking ahead to the future together.

    The work is not impossible, but can be only done by those willing to set a hopeful future together. We need to review what Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet did together to lay the foundation of European integration by launching the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) after World War II.

    Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet played a leading role in paving the way for reconciliation, overcoming a past full of mutual bitter sentiments between France and Germany. Their proposal for launching a body for joint coal and steel production and management between the two countries finally led to the launch of the ECSC in April 1951, which eventually to the creation of the European Union.

    In 1954, France and Germany signed the Paris Agreement, designed to settle military, political, and other questions in the post-war period. In 1963, President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the Elysee Treaty, thus opening the way to open-minded reconciliation.

    The historical reconciliation between France and Germany was begun by agreeing to share economic gains. Economic cooperation led to the historic reconciliation and the result blossomed into mutual peace and prosperity, finally bearing fruit in the form of the EU.

    We need to see what the Memory, Responsibility, and Future Foundation did. In 2000, the German government and businesses established that foundation, forming a fund of 10 billion German Marks, to make up for loss and damages incurred by wartime victims. By that time, Germany had already paid compensation money for WWII to the victorious countries and countries suppressed by the Nazis during the war, for example Israel and Poland. The reason for launching the new foundation was to “Send a solid humanistic sign based on a moral sense of responsibility, solidarity, and self-respect.” The foundation has made efforts to make moral compensation for individuals and businesses forcefully mobilized by the German government during WWII and heal their wounded hearts.

    Many European countries sharing borders engaged in wars on and off for centuries. Hatred and animosity against each other was handed down for generations. However, they now live as good neighbors, sharing visions of the future by overcoming the past through sincere remorse and reconciliation. Should it be a distant dream for all peoples in Northeast Asia to come together to establish a community and enjoy perpetual peace and prosperity together? You, young people who are future leaders of the three countries, please be the ones to realize that dream.

    There is no reason for Koreans and Japanese to be unable to do what Europeans have done. Peace and co-prosperity will be able to blossom in this part of the world through joint efforts for communication and collaboration based on sincere remorse and reconciliation. Accordingly, it has been suggested that the New BeSeTo (Beijing-Seoul-Tokyo) Triangle System should be opened to march toward a new future and make joint efforts to find solutions to problems like our aging society, the low birth rate, energy shortages, air quality, urban regeneration, and many others.

    The Intellectuals Forum: Korea-China-Japan held in Seoul in December last year rekindled the fire for promotion of BeSeTo. I hope that the capitals of the three countries will start the joint march full of hope in a solid and open-minded triangle formation.

    There is a saying, “Food is more delicious when eating with a good friend.” We can build a hopeful future more easily when we communicate and cooperate with others. As someone put it, “A step taken by a hundred people is better than a hundred steps taken by a single person.” John Lennon said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

    We should help future generations live in a place free from threats of war and terrorism, live a sustainable life, and live in peace and hope. We should not have them suffer under the heavy burden left by us. Let’s share good ideas with each other toward that goal.

    Finally, I sincerely hope that this meeting between you and me will serve as the first step toward an era of joint prosperity among peoples in our region.

    Thank you.

    Thank you.