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Mayor's Hope Journal

  • At the Completion of a Nine Day European Tour]
    [Mayor Park Won Soon’s Administrative Journal 44]

  • Mayor's Hope Journal SMG 1305

    [Inspection of the Jean Jaures Hospital linked with social work]

    I hope everyone has been well.

    Late this afternoon, I returned from a 9-day tour of Europe. It is always good to come back to one’s native country, even if the weather is a little bit colder than it was when I left. Even though I could still use the Internet from abroad, I had no actual time to do so. My fellow traveler, Korean Herald Economy reporter Lee Jin-young, spoke for me through his article on my foreign travels entitled “Workaholic Park Won Soon, Seeing the Eiffel Tower from the Bus”.

    On the 11th of this month, I took a plane bound for Paris together with Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon. A 9 day circuit through Spain’s Barcelona, Italy’s Bologna and the capital city of France, Paris, this trip was intended to facilitate benchmarking on social economy models for the strengthening of municipal diplomacy and cooperation, as well as on Parisian policies related to municipal regeneration and the environment. Mayor Park showed no signs of fatigue even as time went on. He enjoyed his time on the long 12-hour flight, proofreading his own manuscripts and briefing for his upcoming trip.

    After transferring at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, it was just after 10pm when we finally arrived at our accommodation in Barcelona, Spain. The back-to-back schedule began with breakfast at 7am followed by a visit to Barcelona’s Esade University and a briefing on aid policy towards social enterprise, then a visit to the FC Barcelona Stadium and the Sagrada Familia Church, which was designed by the world famous architect Antonio Gaudi in 1882 and remains under construction today. During the tour, Mayor Park took photos with his own iPhone and jotted detailed notes in his notebook, while at the same time giving directions on matters to be dealt with on his return to Seoul. At 7pm that night, he was a guest of honor at the ‘World E-governments Organization (WeGO)’ dinner party.

    At 8:30am on the 13th, he met with Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias to conclude the Amity and Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on trade, investment, economics, tourism and cultural exchange between the two cities. Following that, at 9am he moved to the opening of the WeGO general meeting and participated in events until 6pm when he left to begin his journey to Bologna in Italy. However, due to the general strike by Spain’s labor unions that erupted in response to the European economic crisis, the plane was delayed again and again until finally we were able to take off at 11pm that night. Even in the tight confines of the small plane, Mayor Park didn’t waste a moment and made the most of his time by reviewing his documents and organizing his schedule. Even when he was traveling from place to place on foot, he would ask a variety of questions to reporters and listen to their comments, and even while mentioning that on certain issues assistance from the media was necessary for success, he made no special requests.

    The schedule for Bologna was relatively light. As in Spain, Italy was also experiencing difficulties due to protests. The city centre was filled with students protesting the decrease in financial investment in schools, and the streets were barred to traffic by the police so walking was the only way to get around for most people. Even though the situation was frustrating, Mayor Park seemed to enjoy his walks. Strolling around the time-honored city of Bologna, he would stop to take pictures or notes about anything unique that caught his attention.

    After two days in Bologna, we headed for the airport to move on to Paris. There was a tremendous amount of people in the airport also headed for the city so we waited in line for around 30 minutes. Mayor Park spent the wait talking with his attendants and issuing instructions, as well as revealing the results of this visit to the press. As the Mayor of Seoul and a VIP, he was entitled to board the aircraft first as a matter of protocol, but since setting off from Incheon Airport, Mayor Park had insisted on traveling together with his entourage as well as the press corps. After three or four days, it was common for members of the entourage and press corps to nod off while listening to briefings, but Mayor Park himself firmly resisted this impulse and the questions continued.

    On the 16th, beginning with breakfast at 7am with CEOs from Suez Environment, Mayor Park spent the day in face-to-face talks with the minister responsible for the France Society and Solidarity Economy, a lunch meeting with social economy leaders, as well as riding the small above-ground tramway and attending an on-site briefing with the CEO of the company that operates it, Veolia Transport. After alighting from the tram and walking along the Seine River that passes through the city centre, he searched for ways to promote access improvement and event management methods in order to allow more citizens of and visitors to Seoul better opportunities for enjoying the Hangang River. He completed the heavy schedule effortlessly with a meeting with the Mayor of Paris and a visit to the Pavillon de l’Arsenal Museum. In the evening he had dinner with the head of the social enterprise group SOS and discussed ways in which the roots of social enterprise could be planted in Seoul.

    The schedule for the 17th began in the morning. Despite the fact that if we were in Seoul we could enjoy the sweet relaxation of a lazy Saturday morning, the team was on the run from breakfast. Beginning with a visit to Espada, a social enterprise devoted to the rehabilitation of homeless people, we walked up a hill to Belleville village, which is populated by refugees from countries around the world.

    Here Mayor Park stated, “In Seoul we also have districts composed of people from China and other parts of East Asia, but we need to aid these residents in settling into Korean society to prevent riots by residents that have been seen in other developed countries,” and “If we act favorably towards immigrants from developed countries like the USA and UK and unfavorably towards multiculturalism brought by immigrants arriving from developing East Asian countries, there will be a serious social issue in the future. We need to prepare in advance to prevent any future difficulties.” On this particular day, the day before returning to Seoul, Mayor Park spent two hours in debates with the rest of the inspection team and showed passionate interest when discussing what projects would need to be implemented upon the return to Seoul.

    On the 18th, the grueling schedule continued even aboard the plane bound for Incheon International Airport. As the busy schedule persisted, it became common for members of the entourage and press corps to take any available opportunity to nod off, but Mayor Park took no notice of this and continued to supervise matters for the sake of the people of Seoul. It’s impossible to not want to applaud Mayor Park for his endless passion. Because of Mayor Park’s passion for work, in the end, the members of the inspection team could only view those famous and iconic symbols of Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, from the windows of the bus.

    [L USINE – At a gathering with social enterprise leaders at the restaurant of the social enterprise networking convention]