MAYOR Park Won-soon of the South Korean capital Seoul will soon move into a small apartment in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in order to formulate better policy.
According to South Korea’s state news agency Yonhap, the 62-year-old promised to move into the “rundown” neighbourhood of Gangbuk-gu ahead of being re-elected in local elections for the third time earlier this month.
Park recently signed a rental contract for a 30-square-metre rooftop apartment in the neighbourhood of northern Seoul, which he will use as his office and home for a month.
The mayor to identify problems facing residents Ganbuk-gu first-hand to develop effective policy solutions for poorer residents. The area has significantly lower levels of educational attainment than other parts of the city.
According to Yonhap, Park previously moved into an unsold apartment in a newly developed area of northern Seoul and lived there for nine days in 2012. This led to the remaining 615 vacant apartments being sold there.
Prior to politics, Park was a human rights lawyer and civic activist for three decades. He first elected in 2011 with the slogan “the citizens are the mayor” and has always emphasised a grassroots approach to governance.
In 2016, he won the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development for his initiative to make Seoul into a “sharing city”.
According to Seoul’s government, the project aims to implement measures “designed to create new economic opportunities, to restore reliable relationships, and to reduce the wasting of resources with a view to resolving urban economic, social, and environmental problems all together.”
Earlier this month, Park won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in urban sustainability. “Seoul doesn’t need any more landmark structures because it has mountains dotted all around and a river and streams that flow through it,” he said as quoted by the Chosun Ilbo.
“We need to rediscover existing landmarks and respect the life of existing communities and their environs.”
“Seoul once appeared as a city drowning in problems beyond solutions,” said the award’s chairman Professor Kishore Mahbubani.
“Amazingly, strong creative leadership, building on deep citizen engagement and data-driven solutions, managed to turn things around. This mega city now leads the way in delivering inclusive, dynamic and forward-looking urban solutions.”
Seoul is among the largest cities in Asia, with a population of 10 million people.