If there was just one thing for which I felt there was room for improvement before becoming mayor, it was Seoul City’s public information panels. After much deliberation and preparation, Seoul has finally come up with a plan to improve them. Having reviewed numerous complaints from foreign residents and tourists, we have newly produced all the panels in four major languages – Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. Their design has also been standardized for a uniform look.
The public information panels, of which there are 144,134 in total, will be replaced completely by 2016. More tourist panels will be placed throughout the city and more public transportation announcements will be available in multiple languages. As you can see, the infrastructure will be reinforced overall.
The public information panels will include road signs, street names, addresses, pedestrian signs, tourist spot signs, and cultural relic panels, as well as panels for public transportation systems such as the bus and subway.
Seoul City will modify 80,888 traffic signs throughout its jurisdiction starting with five major tourist spots (Myeong-dong, Jongno, Dongdaemun, Jamsil, and Itaewon), Bukchon Hanok Village, and Namsan Park. Most panels were only in Korean and English, and all too often the Romanization differed from district to district, having been managed by different government bodies and investors, thus causing considerable confusion.
Seoul City’s Overall Public Information Panel Improvement Plan has three major features: First, all signs will be written in four major languages; second, all will be benefit from standardized Romanization; and third, all will be produced in a uniform design. Seoul attracts over 10 million foreign tourists a year and is home to 400,000 foreign residents. As such, it is high time its public information panels were laid out in four major languages.
There will also be more signs and public announcements in foreign languages to ensure that non-Korean speakers have no trouble getting around by subway or bus.
This year Seoul’s subway lines will have a standard map for lines #1 to #8 (9,561), with all signs in the four languages mentioned above. If all goes as planned, a total of 48,416 signs will be replaced by 2016.
Some 2,000 buses will also have multi-language announcements by the end of this year, and by 2016 all 7,530 buses will be good to go. A total of 72,263 taxis will carry an information booklet as a reference for tourist information. Taxi stands will also have information stickers providing tourists with additional useful information.
Seoul City’s official website has opened a new page for receiving public complaints about public information panels on http://gis.seoul.go.kr/Citizen). More than forty foreign students (20 Chinese, 20 Japanese) have been hired as members of a Foreign Monitoring Group to evaluate the project’s progress and offer feedback on the newly adopted systems. The project may not be what everyone considers a full-scale renovation, but Seoul is changing little by little.