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Inaugural Address

Five Pledges of Oh Se-hoon. Seoul, Up and Running Again for Fairness and Coexistence.

Dear honorable citizens of Seoul,

This is Oh Se-hoon, 38th Mayor of Seoul.

This past election was filled with desperate wishes in our hearts, and the citizens’ supreme order of realizing fairness and coexistence has become my creed.

Two weeks have passed since I declared to restore Seoul to become a city that is up and running again on April 8, the first day of my mayoralty.

From the very first day, every affair of the Seoul Metropolitan Government was very familiar to me as if I had just returned after my sabbatical.

I spent the two weeks reviewing some pending issues, including responses to COVID-19 and the rapid surge of appraised land value, and perused policies that have changed over the last decade.

I spent every minute of every day thinking only about the citizens.

Honorable citizens of Seoul,

According to the survey of the Seoul Institute, only 14.3% of young Seoul citizens think that they live in a fair society. The fact that only one in seven believe that they live in a fair society exemplifies that our society is in an abnormal situation. The Republic of Korea and the city of Seoul have hibernated over the past years. The uniformly applied business restrictions after the outbreak of the pandemic drove small businesses and the self-employed to the cliff’s edge, and vulnerable classes had to experience falling without any safety gears.

It is dreadful when I imagine a lot of citizens might feel they are beyond recovery in this deteriorating situation of the polarized economy.

In addition to this, the failure of the real estate policy of the government has made almost everyone suffer a disorder referred to as “real estate depression.” Homeowners are suffering from explosive tax hikes, and renters are suffering from feelings of anxiety and deprivation as their dream of owning a house gets farther.

Young people in their 20s and 30s are also suffering while seeking employment and preparing the overwhelming cost of residence! Marriage and childbirth are now out of the picture for them. They have chosen to hide in a cave escaping from the harsh reality and withdraw as they’ve lost courage. A society where young citizens are dispirited has no future. We should go hand in hand to drive out winter and welcome spring.

We may be passing the last opportunity to overcome the great crisis of COVID-19 that is driving our public economy on the edge of a precipice. Now is perhaps the last golden hour to revive the economy of people that can collapse anytime.

There is no time to waste.

Honorable citizens of Seoul,

As the heart of the Republic of Korea, Seoul can rise up and run again. Like a sprinter ready at the starting line, Seoul has the potential energy to run faster than ever before. With that potential, we can take the golden chance to have our city run again to become a city of global competitiveness. We may be living in a society with collapsed fairness and coexistence, but we can start again to rebuild those values. As it is darkest at dawn, we can turn despair into hope right before the sun rises in our city of Seoul.

I will prepare supporting measures for the public economy that can give hope to small businesses and the self-employed, based on the values of fairness and coexistence. I will increase sustainable, high-quality jobs and make Seoul into a hub of future industries that will lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I will create a virtuous cycle to save the public economy where Seoul is realized as a city of future innovation and coexistence together with citizens, companies, and experts. I will execute reforms for the future. I will find opportunities in crises to make Seoul a city with supreme global competitiveness. And all the preparations for the reform of Seoul shall begin at this moment.

Honorable citizens of Seoul,

In order to realize the values of fairness and coexistence, which I mentioned earlier, and enhance the competitiveness of Seoul as a city, I hereby make the following five pledges.

First, I will focus not only on disease control and prevention, but also protection of the people’s economy.

With the spread of COVID-19 to local communities last January, 36,222 confirmed cases have occurred in Seoul until today and 443 Seoul citizens have lost their lives.

The number of tourists in Seoul has plummeted to one-sixth and the scale of damage to the tourism industry amounts to KRW 16 trillion. With the social distancing being prolonged due to the continuous spread of COVID-19, the sales of the small businesses in the country decreased by 37.4% on average and the number of jobs for the vulnerable classes, such as day-to-day workers, decreased by more than 700,000.

Moreover, there is a risk of the fourth wave of COVID-19, which follows the third one that continued from last November. Vaccination is conducted slowly due to the shortage of vaccines, which makes it uncertain if we will bee able to achieve the herd immunity of 70%. The agony of ordinary citizens is accumulating for the time being.

My first and foremost task as the mayor of Seoul is to end the pandemic and stabilize the situation. I will maintain the system of disease control and prevention in close partnership with the central government.

However, in the meantime, I will prepare reasonable alternatives for the uniform disease control and prevention regulations that have aggravated the economic difficulties of small businesses and the self-employed, and discuss the implementations with the central government.

I will expand urgent loans and support for small business owners and seek active and effective measures for traditional markets and local commercial areas that have been seriously damaged, as well as businesses in the fields of culture and tourism.

Second, I will give hope to young citizens in their 20s and 30s based on fairness and coexistence.

I met a lot of young people in their 20s and 30s in the process of this past election, and listened to their real-life difficulties related to employment, housing and education.

I feel sorry and proud of our young citizens, who are doing their very best to get employed while spending a lot of time doing part-time jobs for their living. It is true that it has become difficult for young people to live a stable life in Seoul even after they are employed, surpassing the youth unemployment rate of over 10% with a declining number of jobs, as the average amount of deposit money for an apartment is over KRW 600 million in the city.

Young people in Seoul and other parts of the Republic of Korea say that unfairness and inequality lie at the starting point of all these problems. They talk about fairness and coexistence as the solution. Yes. Young people already know the right answer.

Now, Seoul will lead the preparation of policies for the generation of those in their 20s to 30s based on coexistence and fairness. A city where you can receive fair compensation with fair opportunities. A city where young people design their live and earn their own opportunities and jobs. A city where people live a stable life and enjoy happy cultural life. And a city where young people can have hope and it is natural for them to have such hope. These are what I am mapping out for the city of Seoul.

Third, I will carefully but swiftly prepare new housing policies.

Due to the low-interest rate trend that has been long maintained by the central government, the household loan of Seoul increased by 30% and liquidity in the market by more than 25% compared to three years ago.

However, the institutional restriction on reconstruction and redevelopment led to an insufficient supply of houses in the market. The mismatch between supply and demand resulted in a constant rise in the prices of houses in Seoul, and as of last month, the sale price of the apartments in Seoul increased by as much as 45% compared to four years ago.

Such phenomena show that we need a special measure or the instability of the real estate market will continue. Under my direction, Seoul will set the strategies to serve two purposes, the rapid supply of houses and the stabilization of the real estate price.

First of all, I will rapidly supply houses of good quality in areas in need. I will re-examine the urban planning regulations that have been conventionally maintained from square one. As a beginning, I suggested the shortening of the procedure to designate maintenance areas and the relaxing of the criteria of safety inspection to the central government.

I will support the residence stability of ordinary citizens by developing long-term deposit housing and Seoul Housing & Communities Corporation’s SHift program that have deteriorated since its start a decade ago.

Radical measures will be accompanied to prevent speculation in real estate. The SMG will not only designate the land permit area related to major complexes of reconstruction and redevelopment but also concentrate its investigation on abnormal trades that disturb the real estate market. I will, without hesitation, put out embers of instability of real estate prices.

To this end, we need the cooperation of Seoul citizens, among others. I ask for your faith and trust in the real estate policies of Seoul.

Fourth, I will make Seoul a city where single-person households find happiness.

The population living in Seoul is gradually decreasing in the 2000s, but the number of households is continually increasing by 0.6% annually. The percentage of single-person households, in particular, exceeded 33.9% last year, recording the highest in history, and it will continue to rise until 2042, according to Statistics Korea. Now is the time to actively and thoroughly prepare for the changes in population in the future.

Presently, the SMG is operating the special measure task force for single-person households. The five representative anxieties that single-person households suffer are safety, diseases, poverty, loneliness, and residence problems. The special measure task force for single households is streamlining the policies that have been implemented in each field and preparing comprehensive measures covering all fields including cultural and economic supports.

Additionally, the customized policies for each single-person household groups, including the young (i.e. 20s–30s), middle-aged (i.e. +50s) and women, will be prepared and practiced as well based on analysis of each type of single-person households.

My final pledge to honorable citizens of Seoul is that I will prepare a robust vision for enhancing the quality of their life and improving the competitiveness of Seoul.

The economic growth rate of Seoul was -1.3%, below zero points and the employment rate was 59.3%, the lowest in five years. The life of Seoul citizens has become more tightened and fatigued. Seoul is lagging behind in the competition with global cities as well. According to the survey on the prospect of global cities announced by A.T. Kearney, Seoul ranked 10th in 2010 but after ten years, it is now 42nd, going down 32 spots.

However, it is never too late. The world is experiencing a turning point where the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking place. With a clear vision and thorough strategies, Seoul can take another leap.

I will set a solid direction for the municipal administration to this end. I will prepare a preemptive, long-term, comprehensive, prioritized, and systematic vision.

To make it possible, I will launch the Seoul Vision 2030 Committee in early May. The committee will be divided into five departments—global competitiveness, safety, balanced development, living infrastructure, and fairness and coexistence—and it will develop agendas and alternatives for Seoul. Administrative institutions, policy experts, representatives of citizens’ societies will gather to establish the future vision of Seoul together, upgrading the quality of life of Seoul citizens and improving the competitiveness of the city of Seoul. Like boatmen who row to reach the destination, Seoul will move in perfect order for its 10 million citizens. We will exert the city’s organizational competency.

Honorable citizens of Seoul,

I made the “Design Seoul” brand a decade ago to fill the tangible and intangible environments around the citizens of Seoul with a better quality of design. One example of my efforts is Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a central anchor facility, and I feel proud that I am delivering the inaugural speech at this place, which has now become a globally renowned attraction.

Today, I lace up the shoes of Seoul again. I make a start for Seoul to get back on its feet without falling or dragging behind. Seoul races again as a city of happiness and a city of fairness and coexistence.

Honorable citizens of Seoul,

As Mayor of Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, I will work not only with my knowledge but with my heart. I am certain that the projects and businesses implemented based on deliberation and wholeheartedness will not fade away but increase in value as time goes by.

As Mayor of Seoul, I will cooperative actively with the central government and work together and communicate with the city council if necessary for the 10 million citizens of Seoul. I will only think about Seoul citizens when making policies and practicing them.

When we work together, there is nothing we can’t do. I kindly ask for your continued interest and support to the municipal administration of Seoul.

Thank you.