Workshop on a policy to halve the cost of gosiwons
Date: February 14, 2012
Venue: 5th floor, Seongbo Building, Yeongdeungpo-gu
It is very saddening to hear about the reality of Seoul as described by President Park Cheol-su. Unfortunately, there are many citizens in Seoul facing a stark reality in terms of housing. Some live in particularly poor conditions, such as in gosiwons (facilities with a number of small single-room accommodations), flophouses, saunas, comic book stores, inns, or internet cafes. As Kim Seong-tae and Kim Gil-won mentioned, the tiny rooms, poor sanitation, old toilets, and low-quality instant noodles in these facilities are similar to the living conditions in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century. Amid the sprawling industrial cities of the time, some people were entirely alienated and forgotten. Surprisingly, the same is happening in Seoul in the 21st century.
I am keenly aware that many of our citizens are suffering and living in despair, and as mayor I feel an acute sense of responsibility. You told us that you are hopeful because the government and the people have not abandoned you, and as long as the attention and interest are maintained, you can still live on. And I agree with you. I believe our continuous attention and care can solve these problems.
I visited several gosiwons and the flophouse village today, and what you have told us is quite informative and is awakening to me to the need of a new policy. In particular, Park Cheol-su talked about non-profit gosiwons, gosiwons for lease, special laws, and investor organizations, and you told us that we need to find solution by collecting and testing these ideas. Also, by combining various policies as Dr. Seo Jeong-gyun proposed, we should be able to develop a realistic and practical policy. I have heard your opinion that activists involved in this issue should be allowed to participate in policymaking. And although that might sound good, it is not how it should be done. Policymaking is the job of government employees. It is their responsibility to study and analyze various ideas and develop and select feasible, realistic solutions that conform to the current budget and laws, and then they must discuss the policies with you.
As you mentioned, the answer is here. Though quite unfamiliar to me, while attending this meeting, I am regaining hope. I had never before heard of the small advocacy groups named “Let’s Do It,” “Firefly,” or “Supporting Cast,” while I had heard of self-help communities such as the Yongma community and Solidarity for the Livelihood of People.
The support and policies of the central government and the Seoul Metropolitan Government would be incomplete without the enthusiasm and will to carry them out. Fortunately, we have people who are seeking solutions on their own despite the hardship and despair involved, and if such determination is combined with the policies of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, good results will definitely be achieved. The purpose of today’s meeting is not to find an immediate answer, but to take a first step toward establishing a practical policy. Meetings such as this are incredibly valuable.