Urban district offices visiting people to provide on-site services, leadership education carried out for chiefs of urban district offices
Venue: Seoul City Hall
Architects including Mr. Seung Hyo-sang, the heads of Seongdong, Seongbuk, Dobong, and Geumcheon District Offices, and 79 chiefs of urban district offices,
Thank you very much for attending this ceremony for signing the agreement on urban district offices visiting people to provide services as well as the leadership education carried out for chiefs of urban district offices. We are gathered here today to witness the agreement ceremony that will mark the first step for conversion to urban district offices visiting people to provide on-site services.
The SMG and the Ministry of Health and Welfare are striving to provide universal welfare services. Still, it appears that we have a long way to go before everyone is protected. Tragic news continues to sadden us: A mother and two daughters in Songpa-gu committed suicide together, unable to overcome life’s hardships in February 2014. A senior citizen living alone similarly committed suicide in October 2014.
Welfare-related services provided at the urban district office level are nearly paralyzed due to the increased volume of work to be handled amid the expansion of free childcare, basic pensions, and the execution of the Seoul-type Basic Livelihood Guarantee System. A welfare official even committed suicide, unable to withstand the stress caused by the excessive workload.
The welfare budget is being increased rapidly, but beneficiaries hardly feel its effect. That is because the number of welfare officials is not sufficient, and thus they cannot go so far as to pay visits to individual beneficiaries to check the status of their daily lives. Seeing such a state of affairs, we at the SMG have looked for ways to help people, particularly the needy, get the full benefit of welfare services in an effort to recover the nation’s traditional culture of sharing with each other under the spirit of community.
We concluded that the problem should be solved through cooperation between urban district offices and locals. Urban district offices should communicate with locals and provide hope for those in need, in addition to providing administrative services.
The agreement we are making today will be a significant one, offering a new model of urban district offices as local community centers with the help of prestigious architects. Through such an agreement, local administrators and architects will work together to design the spaces at urban district offices.
People are at the core of the project of urban district offices providing at-home services. The 79 chiefs of urban district offices related to Phase-1 of the project present here today are those holding the keys to the success of the project. They must play a central role in bringing about innovative changes in local areas. Employees at urban district offices will not change without chiefs of urban district offices setting an example. It is difficult to expect improvement in the quality of locals’ lives without a change in the mind of urban district office employees. I would like to ask all of us again whether we are really striving to do what people need us to do, whether we are really doing what we need to do to bring about innovative changes. I hope that this educational session will make you feel as though you are the captain of a ship making the voyage of providing happiness to people in your areas.
I know that the chiefs of urban district offices experience many difficulties working on the frontline of administrative services. It is not easy to pay visits to individual households and start communication. Still, that is what you must do. You have to form a comprehensive understanding of the welfare beneficiaries in your area and their needs. You have to become familiar with the list of local welfare agencies and volunteers willing to cooperate with you in welfare matters. The core of the project we are now starting is the linkage between welfare beneficiaries and available civilian volunteers, and the chiefs of urban district offices must do the linking.
Welfare services performed in this country are basically different from those adopted by countries like Sweden and Finland, which enjoy a much higher level of per-capita income and have adopted a near-perfect welfare system. Here in our country, proposals like free lunch provided to all students or drastic reduction of college tuition fee caused social controversy. [Per-capita GDP of Sweden stood at $59,700 last year, more than twice that of South Korea ($25,900). The amount of welfare expenditure of South Korea has not reached even half the level of those of OECD countries despite a rapid increase since the 2000s.] The objective of the project of urban district offices visiting people to provide services is the realization of one-on-one customized welfare services and the establishment of an efficient and comprehensive welfare system.
The work we are starting is what will form the great infrastructure of Seoul. Great work cannot be accomplished alone. We can, however, exert great power when working together in harmony. Seoul can be a richer and more beautiful place with the participation of individual citizens and those specializing in their areas like artists, scholars, and architects. We at the SMG will strive to provide the most efficient and comprehensive welfare system of all in cooperation with people, local administrative offices, and civilian experts.
You know what the phrase u-mun-hyeon-dap means don’t you? The phrase I have in mind is a homonym of what you are likely to guess. The phrase u-mun-hyeon-dap I have in mind means that the solution of our problems can be found on-site. The project we are starting today should be carried out in a very efficient way. The increase in the number of households sharing with each other will enable you to obtain a much greater result than you first imagined possible from the project.
The local communities and welfare system we desire cannot be accomplished by one or two local officials. It cannot be done without positive involvement. You chiefs of urban district offices must get a grasp of the current status of individual households in your area, encourage your employees and locals to do all they can, and organize those willing to cooperate. I will help you the best I can.
This session held today is an important starting point for refreshing our resolve to rebuild the framework of urban district offices concerning welfare services. I hope that local administrative officials will communicate more closely and build stronger bonds with locals. Seoul can be a better place to live in with an innovative change in your minds. The whole country can change for the better with such a change in Seoul. Thank you.