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Seoul mayor marks 1st year of 2nd term, decries spending

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon pledged to fight “welfare populism” in a city council bill to offer free school meals at all schools in the capital.

“If we don’t overcome ‘welfare populism,’ the democracy of our nation cannot move forward,” he noted at the press conference marking the first year of his second term Wednesday.

“Seoul citizens have made a wise move to put the free school lunch on referendum and the vote will be a turning point of our democracy.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is to conduct its first plebiscite vote on the free school lunch program in August.

The referendum was requested by a coalition of conservative civic groups opposed to the controversial free school meal program. As the signatures collected from citizens needed for referendum have been verified recently, the chances of the vote being called as scheduled are high.

As the first Seoul mayor ever re-elected, Oh emphasized that the plebiscite vote requested by about 800,000 Seoul citizens will sound an alarm for everyone, including politicians in setting the direction of welfare policies.

He also vowed to make Seoul one of top five cities internationally. Seoul’s global city competitiveness climbed 21 steps from 30th in 2006 to 9th in 2010. The city’s financial competitiveness rose from 53rd in 2009 to 16th in 2011.

Despite unfavorable tourism conditions resulting from the two North Korean attacks last year that killed 50 South Koreans, the number of tourists to Seoul has increased 46 percent since 2005.

“Seoul city will strengthen its soft power. The factors that promote the city’s soft power may be intangible but will be embedded in the lives of our citizenry and contribute to the development of the city eventually,” said Jeong Su-yong, director of the city’s planning division.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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