Working together to make Seoul a human rights city.
On-site Listening Tour, Listening Policy Debate, “The human rights policy we want from Seoul”
Date: July 24, 2012
Venue: Main Conference Hall, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall
I would like to thank you for your many good ideas. But unfortunately, as we are only a local government, not the central government, there are limits to what we can do. In particular, you must be aware that determining the rights and obligations of the citizens, through such means as changing ordinances, is not easy, and there are some policies that cannot be pursued aggressively. Sadly, I do not think I can respond to every comment and question that has been put forward here today.
Regarding the issue of irregular workers, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has already established and announced its policy to designate certain jobs that require steady work as regular positions. Moreover, we are recommending the employment of regular workers at not only the Seoul Metropolitan Government, but also at various other related organizations. There was also a comment on labor rights and transportation. The Constitution defines and stipulates our labor rights. The right to enjoy nature and the environment was also mentioned in relation to Gwanaksan Mountain, which I believe was a very important comment. I believe that the following generations should be allowed to enjoy this particular right. Also discussed were the rights of AIDS patients, foreign workers and migrants, people with disabilities, and children, as well as the right to information. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has developed policies on these issues that are already being implemented.
Regarding the rights of people with disabilities, many may say that too little is being done. However, having listened to related organizations, experts, and hundreds of citizens, we are developing the best policies possible. We cannot achieve everything we would like, but our policy has already been praised by experts and organizations for people with disabilities.
Next, I would like to talk about the right to the protection of personal information. Comments were made on this issue regarding the submission of authentication certificates for personal seals and the use of CCTVs. The former is an issue that must be addressed by the central government; however, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will conduct an in-depth review of this issue to see if there are any steps we can take as well. As for CCTVs, I believe they are necessary for the safety of our citizens, but according to a British anti-CCTV organization, they are not significantly effective at preventing crime. So, I think this is an issue that requires more scientific review. Currently, we are building a CPTED system, which stands for “Crime Prevention through Environment Design,” and we hope to prevent crime by using not only CCTVs, but also a system that takes into account the frames of mind and behavioral patterns of criminals. I have assigned the development of such a system to a design foundation at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and they are working on it as we speak. We have also adopted other design policies, including the universal design policy, to create a safer and better environment.
Regarding the Poi-dong reconstruction issue, some of the neighborhoods we are rebuilding are particularly vulnerable, and this is something we intend to change. We will do our best to respect the demands and opinions of the residents of Poi-dong as much as possible, and as I promised you, as long as the Seoul Metropolitan Government has the authority, any planned demolition opposed by the residents will not be carried out. I will also try to set aside time to meet the residents of Poi-dong in person. Now, I would like to address a comment made regarding Seoul Plaza. Anyone wishing to hold an event at Seoul Plaza can do so by submitting a request to the relevant department, and all reasonable requests are generally granted. Maybe in your case, another organization filed a request for another event on the same date, which was probably why your request was not accepted. We will also review the issue of the cost of holding events in Seoul Plaza. There are regulations that address the issue of event costs at Cheonggyecheon (Stream), and similar regulations could be applied to Seoul Plaza. For events with a strong public purpose, the Seoul Metropolitan Government could provide some financial assistance, or even jointly host the event to alleviate the financial burden, especially for events organized by non-profit organizations. I think it would be a good idea to regulate this through an ordinance.
Human rights are always changing. Our civil and political rights are still very important, of course, but today, we are living at a time when new types of human rights are rising to importance in our daily lives.
For example, after spending a few months abroad, I found myself saying “sorry” or “smimaseng (すみません)” whenever I accidentally bumped into someone or stepped on someone’s toes. But Korean people usually do not apologize in these situations. They simply continue on as if nothing happened. We demand that our rights be respected, but in reality, we often do not respect the rights of others. The Seoul Metropolitan Government not only announces ordinances or declarations, as someone pointed out a few minutes ago, but we really work hard to protect our citizen’s rights. These rights are protected through the projects we are carrying out and by the organizations we are working with. I give you my word that, within the limits of our authority, we will take action to protect these rights.
However, this is something we must do together with the citizens. The Seoul Metropolitan Government cannot do it alone. Also, without the proper respect for human rights, we would be unable to respond to the various demands of the people and protect their rights. Therefore, we must all develop a greater respect for human rights.
This is why human rights education and activities are extremely important, and they are something the Seoul Metropolitan Government must support through policy, or rather, through the Human Rights Center, an intermediary organization. I hope this will lead to the creation of many more human rights groups, lively activities, and even human rights clubs in high schools. I hope that human rights are promoted throughout our entire society.
In relation to the Citizens’ Human Rights Officer, we hope to broaden his authority to carry out investigations and provide relief, but there are limits to what we can achieve as a local autonomy. I think it may be possible to grant him the authority to investigate, but if not, there is little we can do. Nevertheless, it would be meaningful to have such a provision included in policy.
Next, I would like to mention the fields in which the Seoul Metropolitan Government can do much more: social and economic rights. Since I took office, I have focused on building a minimum welfare standard. Of course, the budget is an issue, preventing us from doing everything we would like. Nevertheless, a considerable number of people have now been granted the right to receive welfare benefits through this effort. I believe the rights of debtors, which were mentioned before, and their difficulties may also be relevant here. In addition, we have developed a new public healthcare policy, which I officially announced at a recent event. This policy requires a budget of nearly KRW 300 billion, signifying our recognition of the importance of the citizen’s right to medical treatment.
The New Town development was also mentioned. There are about 400,000 people living in low-income housing in Seoul. Therefore, another important task for us is to provide these people with housing that will enable them to lead a more dignified life, but again, funding is a problem.
Every day, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is paying KRW 2.1 billion in interest on its debt of KRW 19 trillion. When I came into office, the debt was nearly KRW 20 trillion. My predecessors had adopted projects that were far too extensive in scale for this city to handle, resulting in considerable overspending. This is why I often find my hands are tied when attempting to carry out administrative activities. As a result of this debt, I must be frugal with our budget, forcing us to seek out projects that require only a minimal amount of funding and resources. Even when we discover such projects, we still have to choose among them.
So far, very little has been invested in public welfare. Unfortunately, we are unable to invest large amounts in this area right away. Regardless, we will try extremely hard to turn things around. I have written down everything that was mentioned here today, and I will go back and discuss these issues with the relevant departments. As I have already explained, I do this because your opinions truly matter to me.
Although the city council makes the final decisions, we collect the citizens’ opinions throughout the process so that they may be incorporated into the ordinances and basic policies we devise.
This is not a one-time effort. Through this new type of governance, we will continue to host discussions and debates and ensure that your opinions are continuously collected and reflected in our policies, thereby creating a city where human rights are respected and honored by all. Thank you for your valuable opinions today.