Park vows to share know-how globally
Seoul City is to embark on a project to spread its urban development and management know-how overseas, especially to developing countries.
The metropolitan government plans to establish a new institution in charge of cooperation with foreign cities in areas including environment, transport, infrastructure and information technology-based governance.
The globalization program is also aimed at helping developing countries boost the competitiveness of their cities, they said.
Mayor Park Won-soon unveiled the plan after returning from a tour of five Latin American cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires last week.
“The city will set up a research center to help study city development and management and export our expertise to the world,” he told reporters on Monday.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon gives a presentation at the meeting of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, held in Belu Horizonte, Brazil, last month. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)
It will be an independent organization apart from the current International Cooperation Division, he said.
“Seoul City has experience and management skills in various sectors such as water supply, subway systems, information and technology, and e-governing. We cannot just keep, but (must) share them with others to become truly global.”
Seoul has ranked first place twice, in 2010 and 2012, in the evaluation of municipal e-governments conducted by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Mayor Park, former civic activist, paid a lot of attention to the South American cities’ environment-friendly policies.
“Brazil and Argentina all have deep understandings in integrating city development with culture, arts and history, which Seoul should learn from,” Park said.
He highly evaluated Brazil’s health care and welfare systems.
“The Bolsa Familia is the driving force of the economic growth of Brazil, as it gives purchase power to the people in poverty, small and medium enterprises prosper and jobs are created.”
Brazil’s welfare program started in 2003 with the integration of two different welfare systems in the nation by then President Lula da Silva. It provides financial aid for underprivileged families and free education and vaccination for children in poverty.
He mentioned Curitiba City, south Brazil, which turned a deserted quarry into an opera house, as he emphasized that Seoul should learn from the concepts and imagination of the city.
“The opera house, called the Wire Opera House, was built out of steel tubes in less than three months. The opera house is environment-friendly and costs much less than other performance theaters,” Park said.
He compared it to an opera house which had been planned near Seoul’s Han River. The project required a budget of about 670 billion won ($600 million). Park canceled the project and set up city farms where citizens can raise vegetables and plants instead.
He promised that the metropolitan government will not just passively give permission to city projects, but actively lead city development.
Meanwhile, he said the city will also lead environmental initiatives and become an exemplary model as the city has taken important roles in responding to climate change.
On his visit to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Mayor Park was elected a chairperson of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change.
The council is an alliance of the leaders of 70 metropolitan cities including Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Montreal aimed at addressing climate change and sustainable development. He starts his two-year term from October.
Seoul City will open an East Asia office of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
The ICLEI is an international association of local governments on sustainable development, which was established in 1990, and is comprised of 1,220 cities, towns and their associations from 70 nations.
The mayor attended the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group in Rio de Janeiro, held on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development.
The Seoul mayor introduced the city’s environment policies such as saving energy equivalent of one nuclear power plant, city farming and resource recycling.
He is scheduled to take a trip to Europe in November as he attends a meeting of the World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments in Barcelona, Spain.
The organization is an international cooperative body for cities and local governments, fostering collaboration among e-governing cities, to bring efficiency and transparency into public administration.
He will also visit Bologna, northern Italy, where he expects to learn about its economic development based on cooperatives.