Park begins second term with safety, welfare pledge

By Claire Lee

Reelected Seoul major seeks to collaborate with central government

  • Published : Jun 10, 2014 - 21:00
  • Updated : Jun 10, 2014 - 21:00
The incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who recently defeated his rival and conservative candidate Chung Mong-joon and whose second term starts next month, has pledged to focus on safety, welfare and the economy.

“Although the number of welfare programs has increased dramatically, there are just not enough social workers,” Park said at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.

“Many of the social workers were overworked and some of them committed suicide. I am trying to double the number of public workers in the city’s welfare sector.”

Park also said he hopes to boost Seoul’s economy, while paying attention to its arts and culture scene, as well as education.

“The incumbent Seoul education chief Moon Yong-rin didn’t really want to cooperate with the Seoul Metropolitan government,” Park said, when asked about Cho Hee-yeon, the Seoul education chief-elect, who is known for his close ties with liberal-minded scholars and politicians.

“So the Seoul government once had to come up with its own education plan. But I think the Seoul education chief-elect is someone who I can really collaborate and share ideas with, and ultimately create better programs for our children.”

In the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster, Park said he planned to introduce a system where people in charge of disaster sites, such as the head of the local fire department, would take full responsibility for the rescue process.

“It wasn’t clear who was in charge of the rescue operation when the ferry Sewol sank,” Park said. “It is very important to make that clear whenever disasters occur.”

The mayor, who belongs to the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said he hopes to collaborate with the central government, as well as Saenuri lawmakers, as much as possible.

“(After winning the election) I called every Saenuri member of the Seoul Metropolitan Council to tell them I’d like to make Seoul a better place through our joint efforts,” he said. “There really is no reason for the central government and municipal governments not to collaborate.”

Although he is considered a potential presidential hopeful, Park said he would only focus on Seoul and its citizens for now.

“I can’t say Seoul mayor is not a political position,” he said. “But what I want to achieve as this city’s mayor, which is actually making things better for the Seoul citizens, is my first priority. Being a good mayor should be my political achievement, not anything else.”

In regards to winning last week’s election, Park said he is proud of “not doing the four (campaign gimmicks).” During his campaign, he did not use campaign music, dancing, loudspeakers or campaign trucks.

“I didn’t spend a lot of money, I didn’t make a lot of noise, and I didn’t try to attack other candidates,” he said. “Having a fair, better election culture is one of the things that will really improve the local politics, I think.”

By Claire Lee (