Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon says he would use all of his administrative powers to focus on local people suffering from the pandemic, leaving aside support policies for foreign residents and investment for now if he is reelected to the post.
“The top priority is (Korean) people’s livelihood. There are limits to what Seoul can invest (in foreigners) except for helping them avoid discomfort in Seoul,” Oh said in an interview with The Korea Herald in his office at Gwangjin-gu, Seoul.
Oh, a member of the main opposition People Power Party, announced his candidacy for the Seoul mayoral by-election on Jan. 17. He was elected Seoul mayor in 2006 and 2010. In 2011, however, he staked his position on a referendum to end free lunches for all elementary and middle school students, and stepped down as mayor when turnout was not high enough.
“During the five-year term (when I served as a mayor), I even paid attention to housing complexes exclusively for foreigners. At the time, housing supply came smoothly because of active redevelopment, reconstruction and new town projects,” he said.
“If you talk about that now, Seoul citizens will probably be puzzled because there is a housing shortage even for local people,” he said.
Attracting foreign investment should also be pushed back down the priority ladder, the candidate said. “It is said that herd immunity will not occur until November this year. We can afford to think about (foreign investment) from then on,” he said.
Korea aims to vaccinate 70 percent of the population by November to achieve a herd immunity.
Although Oh argues the times demand policies for foreign residents of Seoul to be put on the back burner, the presence of foreigners is growing each year in the city.
The number of foreign residents in Seoul now stands at about 500,000. Among them, around 40,000 residents are eligible to vote. Foreign capital invested in Seoul was the highest ever last year. Foreign direct investment to the city amounted to $1 million in 2020, according to the city government.
The key pledge he plans to focus on establishing a unit within the city government dedicated to formulating and carrying out policies for the well-being of single-person households in Seoul. The unit will address five major issues, which are safety, disease, poverty, loneliness and housing for the group, he said.
“To help single-person households in their 20s, 30s and 40s feel safe, we will support security guards in each area, install more closed-circuit televisions, install additional emergency bells and introduce a dedicated police system in case of reporting a dangerous situation,” the candidate said.
For single-person households in their 60s or older, he vowed to introduce regular monitoring of chronic diseases through a system that links medical alert watch-wearers with doctors in collaboration with local hospitals.
When asked whether he plans to run for the presidency in 2022, Oh made it clear that he would not.
“The Seoul mayoral election is not a small election. So if it didn’t work as intended, would it be possible to run for president immediately? It’s not realistically possible.”
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com