We will be a shoulder for citizens to lean on
2012 New Year’s Address
Date: January 2, 2012
Venue: Sejong Center for the Performing Arts
‘We will be a shoulder for citizens to lean on.’
Building a city together through citizen-centered city administration
Seoul that we make together, and enjoy together
Beloved citizens of Seoul
and members of the Seoul Metropolitan Government family,
Happy New Year! The Year of the Dragon has dawned, and with the energy and vigor of a black dragon flying up into the sky, I wish you all the best of health, and hope that all your wishes come true this year.
Last year was a very tough time for our country. It was as if we were flung back into the development era. Under single-minded policies that pursued only growth, the world was led by the winners, and the deepening social polarization wreaked havoc on our lives.
And yet, the wheels of history continued to turn. “The world of winners must come to a stop! That kind of world makes everyone losers, so let’s join hands and create a world where we can all live together!” This was the resounding aspiration of the citizens that surfaced during the by-elections, and is a sentiment that represents the spirit of our age as well as my calling. It has been two months since I took office, and now I find myself in a new year. Two months is too short a time to change the course of the huge ship of the Seoul Metropolitan Government toward the spirit of our time. This task is all the more formidable considering that the city had followed a course that focused on decoration and showing-off for nearly ten years.
But with the commitment and hard work of the Seoul Metropolitan Government family and the cooperation of the Seoul Metropolitan Council, I believe we have finished righting the course of our ship. First, we removed the huge obstacle that had hindered the provision of free, green school lunches, and by halving the tuition for students at the University of Seoul, we have opened the floodgates of education innovation. Also, I opened my door and set out to meet people out on the streets, thereby expanding the platform of communication with our citizens. Furthermore, by fully reviewing the 2012 budget, we have excluded wasteful activities and construction projects; instead, we have increased the budget for public welfare and safety. The organization of the Seoul Metropolitan Government has also been reorganized to focus on welfare, safety, and job creation. By carrying out a large-scale reshuffling of our staff, we have reenergized the working atmosphere at the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the gu offices. We have also normalized our relations with the Seoul Metropolitan Council, the other mast of the ship, which was in a state of devastation.
Dear citizens and members of the Seoul Metropolitan Government,
Based on these preparations, this New Year will be the first year we realize “people-centered city administration” and create a “city that we build together and share the benefits.”
Looking at the current political and economic situation and various indexes, the economic outlook for the citizens of Seoul and the Seoul Metropolitan Government in the New Year are far from rosy; rather, their lives will likely be full of hardship. There are no signs of an economic recovery on which we could rebuild our lives, and the conflict and divisions caused by the polarization in our society cannot be resolved easily. These hardships affect us all, but their influence on the socially vulnerable is considerably amplified.
The extravagant banner of the former administration, “Design Seoul,” hid the extent of the pain and hardship the citizens were actually experiencing. Realizing this, I went on a full two-day tour before Christmas Day, and saw some of these people with my own two eyes. I met children who went to school, but were living in a motel room with their mother. I met citizens who were on the brink of becoming homeless, living in a room less than 3.3 square meters in size at an accommodation for those preparing for big tests, called gosiwon. Gosiwon is an unstable form of housing, but there are approximately 600,000 people in Seoul living in such places. I also saw an elderly woman who was physically ill and barely making a living by collecting waste paper. She was enduring the harsh cold of winter on a small electric mat with her grandson. When the New Town redevelopment project begins, she will lose her room, but that will not be the only thing she loses. She will lose her neighbors, who collect waste paper and cans for her when she is too weak to do it on her own, and who leave a carton of milk for her and her grandson to drink. These people are her lifeline. When the time comes, where will she go? Where can the children living in the motel room find hope? For whose benefit exactly is are the New Town redevelopment projects being pursued?
Dear citizens and family of the Seoul Metropolitan Government,
The reason for the existence of the Korean government and the Seoul Metropolitan Government is to concern ourselves with the lives of these small, but valuable people, and to help and protect them. However, these two governments have been blinded by growth, or rather, they were so dazzled by words such as “design,” “renaissance,” and “development,” that they forgot the importance of the lives of ordinary people and the value of everyday life. Amid such confusion, Seoul has become a city that drives people out, people whose lives are small, but precious. This kind of city terrifies me, and that fear is contagious. Not only is Seoul hurting the people who are unable to repay their debts, it is also destabilizing the middle class. If we understand their suffering and difficulties, and if we are afraid also, we must take action to correct the situation. We must find hope. No, we must create hope. This is our duty, as people living under the same sky, and the duty of the Korean government and the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
But while the two governments were distracted, seduced by a mirage, it was the citizens of Seoul that helped the people in need. An elderly woman who, despite being eighty years old, delivered meals to the less fortunate every single day; the Chairwoman of Sharing, who is also a single-mother, looked after her more unfortunate neighbors and assisted other people to help them as well; the owner of a local restaurant fed the children of impoverished families who would otherwise go hungry, because there were no free meals at school. People such as these were the true heroes that stood by Seoul and its citizens when the two governments had strayed from what should have been their main concern. In these people, I saw the seeds of hope. It was here that I discovered the ideas of “people-centered city administration” and the “city that we build together and share the benefits.”
In the “people-centered city administration,” citizens are not clients, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government is not a business. Citizens should not be the target of promotion or marketing; they are the owners of the city. They are not beneficiaries that must be led, taught, and controlled; they are the main actors of city administration with the right to welfare. The goals of the city government in its administration of this city are not efficiency, creativity, design, or renaissance, as these are not goals, but means. The true goals of city administration should be the happiness and peace of each citizen. Mothers who are anxious about raising and providing an education for their children, young people who are looking for work, senior citizens who worry about their old age, to protect the lives of these people is the reason for the existence of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. In a nutshell, the people-centered administration of Seoul must be like a shoulder that weary citizens can lean on and a place for them to rest.
This resting place should be created not by the metropolitan government alone, but together with the citizens. This is the only way we can share its benefits. So, the year 2012 will be the year we set off on our journey to create a human-oriented city administration. Throughout this process, conflicts of interest and discord will be inevitable. But, like the old saying goes, “If the weather is good, the umbrella seller cries, and if it rains, the pottery dealer cries.” Even issues such as prohibiting smoking in public places and creating an ice-skating rink in front of City Hall are vulnerable to such conflicts of interest and discord.
In this respect, one duty of the metropolitan government is coordinating, preventing, and easing such conflicts. In the past, the government doggedly pursued the New Town and urban renewal projects, which created an immediate impact but eventually triggered conflicts, and we have now inherited the task of resolving these complicated conflicts. This is indeed a Herculean task, but we will find a solution by thinking about it and discussing it together.
Soon, I will have the opportunity to announce the three-year plan of my city administration, so today I will focus my speech on the priority tasks that must be carried out in the New Year.
The main goal of the city administration in 2012 is to pursue a new city administration focused on people and public welfare. To this end, we will work with the citizens to develop the Seoul Citizen Welfare Standard as a right for all citizens. While strengthening livelihood support for people who have fallen into poverty, we will also provide 80,000 apartments for public rental to ease the anxiety over housing and expand the public childcare infrastructure to relieve the burden of childrearing. We will create environment in which people will not be financially burdened by the cost of education, through such means as reducing university tuition, and we will do our utmost to generate sustainable, quality jobs for the youth and the elderly by securing future growth drivers in the form of socially responsible companies. In addition, we will seek a practical way to offer assistance to families crushed by household debt. In order to create a city safe from disaster, we will expand safety services with a priority on the socially vulnerable, namely children and the elderly, and focus on flood prevention by building a decentralized rainwater management system. Furthermore, in order to restore the value of community, which is currently at risk of disappearing due to development with no consideration for society, we will install the Seoul Community Support Center and adopt various support programs to nurture communities.
Honorable citizens of Seoul and members of the Seoul Metropolitan Government family,
This year will be marked by two major political events, the general elections and the presidential elections, making it a time of festering social division. However, we will be unwavering in our administration of the city. In our relations with the central government, we will offer active assistance where we must and actively receive assistance when we need it, and we will cooperate closely with the soon to be elected National Assembly, as improving the laws to support the new era of local autonomy is also an urgent task.
Today, the entire country comprises one economic zone. Seoul is not an island, and there can be no development that applies to Seoul alone. Therefore, we will reinforce our cooperative relations with other metropolitan cities and act wisely to resolve the problem of imbalanced development with other regions. The strained inter-Korean relations and unpredictability of the North Korean situation are directly connected to not only the balanced development of Seoul, but also the lives of its citizens. Although North Korea is an issue that goes beyond the scope of a local autonomy, we will remain open, and if there is some way we can contribute to peace, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will give it a try, no matter how small it may be. In this regard, I would like to inform the Korean Ministry of Unification and the North Korean authorities that we are open to hosting football matches between the North and South and a holding a performance by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra in Pyongyang.
Honorable Seoul citizens and public officials of the Seoul Metropolitan Government,
It will be a long and difficult process to change Seoul into a city that supports its citizens and makes their lives easier. For too long, people have not been the center of city administration.
But I will never stop pursuing this goal. I have never thought of giving up, and I don’t think it is even an option. We are simply following the spirit of our time, and seeing where history will take us.
Family of the Seoul Metropolitan Government,
A while ago, you had to endure the pain of parting ways with talented colleagues with whom you had worked for many years, and it pained me too. However, from that pain of sacrifice, I believe a fresh wind of energy and vitality will flow through the newly organized Seoul Metropolitan City government. You are the best colleagues I have ever had in my life, and we are partners in the historical undertaking of achieving the rebirth of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. I believe in each and every one of you.
Beloved citizens of Seoul,
I offer my deepest respect to you for your determination to endure the harsh conditions of your daily reality. You are the owners of the city government and the sole reason for its existence. So, I ask you to monitor, assist, and lead the Seoul Metropolitan Government in its transformation into a place where you can find solace when you are exhausted and worried. Only with your participation can we realize “people-centered city administration” and “a city we build together and share its benefits.”
Citizens of Seoul and members of the Seoul Metropolitan Government family,
In 2012, the Year of the Black Dragon, I wish you all the best and great happiness. I give you my word that I will devote myself to making all of my hopes a reality.