Not Only Public Officials Can Effect Change in Seoul
An On-site Visit to Unsafe Buildings in Haengchon-dong
Date: November 9, 2011
Venue: Haengchon-dong, Jongno-gu
Mayor Park: “E-level” means that the structure is a makeshift shelter where residents can stay temporarily, and “D-level” is only slightly better than that. The safety risk posed by these buildings cannot be emphasized enough. E-level and D-level buildings should be demolished as soon as possible. When snow accumulates on the roofs in winter, the buildings begin to collapse under the pressure. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is here to fix this. Is this an unauthorized housing complex?
Head of Jongno-gu Office: Yes, it is. It should be changed into a park or be renovated.
Mayor Park: As it is located under the old city wall, it should be completely removed so this area can be restored.
Head of Jongno-gu Office: It belongs to the state, so it has no private owners. Everyone here is a tenant. We come here several times last year.
Mayor Park: If the buildings were demolished, would rental housing be provided to the current tenants?
Head of Jongno-gu Office: Yes.
Mayor Park: They might want some level of support on top of the rental housing, right?
Head of Jongno-gu Office: Yes.
Mayor Park: To ensure that safety inspections are carried out regularly, a monitoring system involving a citizens’ ombudsman should be adopted, as public officials alone are limited in the change they can achieve in a city as large as Seoul. Also, a web-based system should be established through which residents can voluntarily submit notices.
Mayor Park: That embankment looks dangerous. Do you have a group of staff members overseeing the safety of Seoul?
Public Official: Yes, we have public officials as well as external experts.
Mayor Park: You really need to come up with a stopgap measure as well as a mid- to long-term measure. The quality of life of the tenants should be addressed and the owners should receive housing support. There also needs to be a well-established model. Although such houses are unauthorized, they are owned by someone.
Mayor Park: I will talk with the gu office further. Also, a park needs to be created as this area is located right under the old city wall, but the houses are quite run down.
District Councilor: The residents here also want parks.
Mayor Park: Since the cost is quite high and it is difficult to secure adequate funds at the right time, it would not be easy to transform this area into a park. But that is not the only problem. Unsafe buildings should be managed by Seoul City, and alternative measures should be extended to include private agencies as soon as possible.
Head of Jongno-gu Office: It is difficult for public organizations to monitor the safety conditions of private facilities, so we will set up a management system to deal with this.
Mayor Park: Even residents who happen to spot a crack while walking around this area could be of assistance. Also, please come up with alternatives by setting priorities and formulating a mid- to long-term budget plan at the city and district levels. So far, you have done your best, but please make sure that you are fully prepared for any possible accident. Those working in the gu offices have done very well also. Snow is quite heavy, causing even trees to fall down. Of course, snow on the streets should be removed, but snow on rooftops is a priority. Please pay attention to every corner of our community. I truly understand how hard it is for public officials to handle all of these responsibilities, but please make sure to address this issue with a particularly strong sense of duty.