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[KH Finance Forum] Seoul reignites drive to become world‘s top 5 financial hub

Seoul mayor pins hopes on city attracting global ESG investments under its new investment agency

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon speaks during the Korea Herald Finance and Investment Forum held at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, Tuesday.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon speaks during the Korea Herald Finance and Investment Forum held at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, Tuesday.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will launch its own investment organization next year dedicated to attracting foreign investment to foster startups here, as part of its goal to turn the capital city into one of the world’s top five financial hubs by 2030, Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon said Tuesday.

“Based on the premise that financial competitiveness is crucial to improving a city’s global attractiveness, the Seoul city government will push for measures to turn Yeouido into a special digital financial zone,” the mayor said during The Korea Herald Finance and Investment Forum 2021 on Tuesday morning.

The investment entity, similar to Singapore’s Economic Development Board and Hong Kong’s InvestHK, will help local businesses win overseas contracts, while drawing global venture capital investments in promising startups, which will spur job creation, Oh explained.

The envisioned plan is part of Seoul’s policy direction dubbed “Seoul Vision 2030,” unveiled on Sept. 15, which is aimed at enhancing the city’s global urban competitiveness. The city government will invest 48 trillion won ($40.8 billion) in the scheme over the next 10 years. Further details on the reform drive will be announced in October. 

As of last year, Seoul ranked 25th out of 121 cities for the Global Financial Centres Index, according to the British consulting company Z/Yen. The index measures the competitiveness of world’s major cities in terms of business environment, financial sector development, human resources and infrastructure. New York topped the list, followed by London, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. 

Meanwhile, responding to a worldwide boom in sustainable investing that considers environmental, social and governance factors, the mayor also vowed policy efforts to support ESG management across industries. 

“We’re entering a period of dramatic change. The whole world is striving to keep up with rapid socioeconomic changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. ESG management as well as industrial digital transformation are building the new future of finance,” Oh said. 

“For Seoul to become a leading financial center devoted to ESG principles, the city government will continue to encourage private companies to integrate ESG values into their business models. Also, we will make all-out efforts to lead ESG-focused global investors to gather here in Seoul,” Oh said. 

As for measures to foster digital transition in the finance sector, which gained momentum due to the contactless boom amid the pandemic, the city government plans to build the “Seoul Digital Finance Hub Support Center,” by 2025, which will operate educational programs designed to nurture digital finance specialists. 

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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