The Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, currently on a tour of Central and South America, passed on the expertise of the Seoul-type urban renewal to Mexico City. On July 8, 2019, as the first stop on his tour itinerary, the Mayor gave a lecture on “The Present and Future of Human-focused, Seoul-type Urban Renewal” at the Seoul-Mexico City Sustainable City Forum held in the auditorium of the College of Architects of Mexico City (Colegio de Arquitectos de la Ciudad de México).
The forum was co-organized by the Mexican Embassy in Korea and the College of Architects of Mexico City. Over 200 people, including architects from the college, government officials of Mexico City, and college students of related majors, attended and listened to the Mayor’s lecture.
Mexico City has actively pursued the policies for a sustainable city after the December 2018 inauguration of Claudia Sheinbaum, a mayor who had worked as an environmental activist. Recently, the local interest in Seoul-type urban renewal method grown even more intense.
Mayor Park Won-soon of Seoul first gave a 20-minute presentation, in which he remarked on the background of “Seoul-type urban renewal,” explaining that Seoul had seen the collapse of communities due to the massive urban development through full-scale demolitions during the time only growth and development were prioritized. The Mayor went on to explain that a human-focused renewal of the city was required in order to preserve Seoul’s history of over 1,000 years as the capital city and its multi-layered attractions.
Mayor Park then introduced the representative urban renewal cases that have been taking place in Seoul, mainly based on the participation and initiative of residents. Major examples included ▴ Seoullo 7017, which opened after over 600 meetings and conversations with local worried and opposed residents, is now revitalizing the nearby commercial areas having had 17 million visitors within the past two years, ▴ Oil Tank Culture Park in Mapo, an oil tank that had been inaccessible to the general public for more than 40 years and has now turned into a culture complex, ▴ Sewoon Shopping Center, which was once the driving force of the electronics industry during its booming years in the 1970s-80s, has now turned into a hub for the creative manufacturing industry, housing engineering artisans, and young entrepreneurs, and ▴ Seoul Book Bogo, the nation’s first public secondhand book store, which was established through a remodel of an abandoned warehouse and with the participation of 29 old, small-scale used book stores.
As he wrapped up the lecture, Mayor Park Won-soon presented three challenges for the urban renewal for the future: ▴ “independent urban renewal,” where residents lead the urban renewal going beyond the limits of financial support by the public sector, ▴ “smart urban renewal,” in preparation for the massive paradigm shift called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and ▴ “eco-friendly urban renewal” to prepare for the climate change.
Mayor Park Won-soon stated, “Korea is the sixth largest trading partner of Mexico. Mexico is the largest trading partner of Korea among Central and South American countries. The two countries should keep a close, strategic partnership. As the mayor of Seoul and the president of the Governors Association of Korea, I will take the lead in enhancing the exchanges between the local governments of the two countries…I expect today’s Seoul-Mexico City Sustainable City Forum to serve as momentum to solidify the cooperative solidarity between the two cities in the field of urban renewal. As Mexico City has a great interest in the Seoul-type urban renewal method, we have plans to actively pass our policies onto this city.”