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[Herald Interview] Anyang’s ‘Iron Man’ mayor charts ground-breaking path

Mayor Choi Dae-ho helps expand city’s international network, undertaking first-ever projects and spearheading measures to fight COVID-19

Anyang Mayor Choi Dae-ho (Anyang City)
Anyang Mayor Choi Dae-ho (Anyang City)
Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, is a city with 222,632 households and a population of 551,136. It is developing as a global city with nine sister cities in six countries, including Hampton, Virgina, and Garden Grove, California, in the United States, Tokorozawa and Komaki in Japan, Weifang and Anyang in China, Ulan-Ude in Russia, Sorocaba in Brazil and Naucalpan, Mexico.

Anyang Mayor Choi Dae-ho has been called the “Iron Man mayor.” Nineteen of his policies have been national firsts. These include the enactment of the Anyang youth award ordinance as well as the 92.1 billion won ($82 million) fund for youth startups, as Choi positioned Anyang as a youth-friendly city. The city also operated Gyeonggi Province’s first temporary screening center in response to COVID-19 and unraveled complicated regulations.

The city of Anyang established numerous more policies, including the nation’s first fine dust monitoring system using an IoT network and a smart customized safety system, allowing citizens to safely walk around the streets late at night. Moreover, it opened a safety center for dementia patients, provided PE clothes to middle and high school freshmen for the first time in Gyeonggi Province and gave out gift tickets to 9-year-olds. Not stopping there, the city was the first in the nation to enact Teen Day.

The city’s postpartum products support is also cited as being a leading policy.

A view of Anyang’s City Hall (Anyang City)
A view of Anyang’s City Hall (Anyang City)
Like the Marvel superhero Iron Man, Anyang produces countless ideas, and this is why the city is drawing national attention. Choi is nicknamed Iron Man because when Anyang starts something, the whole nation follows and incorporates it.

While spearheading COVID-19 measures, Choi experienced COVID-19 first-hand as he tested positive and was treated in a self-isolation facility.

Through this experience, he knows the importance of vaccinations better than anyone.

His philosophy is to maintain a stable local economy even during the pandemic.

This year, mayor Choi started the ‘Anyang New Deal,’ which will cover sectors including the economy, public safety and the environment. It aims to create more jobs and set a standard as a sustainable city.

To create an energetic, vibrant economic city, he went all in on young people.

“The youths are our heart and our future,” said Choi. “We will create a brand new ‘Anyang New Deal’ by implementing ‘Youth New Deal’ into the existing Korean New Deal.” The goal is to create 140,000 new jobs by 2025. It will operate on youth startup fund, worth 921 billion won, and will focus on supporting and developing 100 startups to make a hub for youth startups.

Anyang’s youth employment for “fourth industrial revolution” program, Do Dream program, On Off Mix job fair, 24-hour online job recruitment center and its system that can respond to employers’ demands in real time, are some of the efforts the city has put into supporting youth employment. To relieve housing expenses, the city also provides a youth interest support program and a youth rent support program.

Choi announced several plans to revive the local economy.

“We will support small to medium-sized businesses and increase their competitiveness by introducing funds, special guarantees and by strengthening the entrance to global markets. Moreover, for small businesses, we will foster programs like public food delivery apps, special business areas through IoT networks and online grocery shopping using Naver’s platform.”

To stabilize the economy, the city also provided relief funds for businesses hit by the pandemic.

An aerial view of Anyang (Anyang City)
An aerial view of Anyang (Anyang City)
Choi has been pushing for the completion of a smart city without hesitation. With the fourth industrial revolution introducing cutting-edge technologies like AI, big data, IOT, 5G and more, his dream is to complete a digital smart city by combining all these technologies and create a social safety net.

The construction of Anyang’s integrated smart city platform has been carried out steadily. With Anyang City’s integrated information management system connecting the police, fire and justice department, it shares security cameras and other infrastructures for a faster response to protect citizens’ lives and property in an emergency. From establishing a base for Gyeonggi’s IoT, a custom safety system for the disadvantaged, Anyang’s self-driving demonstration project and its disaster monitoring system using drones, the city incorporated all programs into the integrated smart city platform to meet the standards of the fourth industrial revolution.

The city is already maximizing efficiency by combining high-tech technology and safety with programs like water metering systems using IoT and smart underground road facilities that can prevent flooding.

For a safer and more convenient transportation system, the city will further support its AI-based Intelligent Transportation System project that will allow emergency vehicles to be deployed promptly, prevent school zone accidents, share information on public and private parking lots and more.

A public parking lot will be built under Pyeongchon-daero for a smoother traffic flow, as it will relieve traffic around academies and prevent accidents. Moreover, the city has also used technology to reinvigorate the local area by holding online courses for community center programs shut down by the pandemic.

“Looking back, 2020 was a packed year. Much of our lives were restricted due to COVID-19 and the pandemic has brought crises in different areas.” Choi said.

However, Choi’s efforts have brought the city into a solid leadership position as he protected the safety of the citizens through the nation’s first temporary screening centers, as well as generating 28.6 billion won in awards and subsidies.

He won an incredible 121 awards last year including the 16th Presidential Award for local government management, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety’s award for best regulatory innovation, recertification as an outstanding institution for the second consecutive year, the grand prize at Korea’s Social Media Awards, the grand prize in the local government division and the excellence prize at the National Local Government Job Awards.

Last January, he received the highest grade in the 2020 Anti-Corruption Policy Assessment conducted by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and Anyang was recognized as a corruption-free city. That February, Anyang proved its policy excellence by being selected at the 2020 Local Government Policy Awards.

Anyang City’s response to COVID-19 is impressive. Following last year, the administration was all in to form a task force to inspect quarantine measures, secure disaster funds, manage those in self-isolation, run a temporary screening center, operate quarantine taxis and supply quarantine products. The city also set up a team dedicated to vaccinations, and for small business owners hit by the pandemic, a second water bill reduction was implemented for the first time in the country.

“I will make sure to make Anyang the best city in the nation -- a city where just living here brings you pride and joy,” Choi said.

By Gha Hee-sun ( and Park Joung-kyu (