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Oh envisions Seoul as ‘Asian financial capital’ in bid for 4th Seoul mayor term

Seoul Mayor candidate Oh Se-hoon speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald at the candidate’s office in central Seoul, Tuesday. (Im Se-jun / The Korea Herald)
Seoul Mayor candidate Oh Se-hoon speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald at the candidate’s office in central Seoul, Tuesday. (Im Se-jun / The Korea Herald)

Oh Se-hoon, the Seoul mayoral candidate of the ruling People Power Party, says he will strive for more foreign investment and will transform Seoul into a “leading Asian financial center” if elected for the fourth time as Seoul mayor.

“Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, is the heart and engine of the country, and managing the city’s affairs is no less significant than running the country,” Oh said during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 17.

Oh, who scored a crushing win in a mayoral by-election in 2021, is now bidding for a fourth term. He said his goal is to make Seoul one of the top cities in Asia which can attract more foreign travelers and overseas investors.

“Anyone who becomes the mayor of Seoul should aim for turning the city into a leading Asian financial center,” Oh said.

“Seoul cannot step up as a leading city in this region and compete with cities like Singapore and Tokyo if it cannot become an attractive location for international investment and financial services.”

When asked whether this goal is achievable, Oh said he is certain it can be achieved if it was backed by consistent investment over 10 years at minimum.

While bringing administrative efforts and new policies into the finance sector to lure foreign investors, he will launch a new design initiative to attract more foreign travelers as well. Under the slogan of “Design Seoul 2.0,” Oh plans to roll out policies that would transform the “hardware” of the city and make it more attractive for foreign visitors.

Oh said he plans to change the city’s current slogan, “I.SEOUL.U” -- created under his predecessor Park Won-soon -- saying that its meaning is ambiguous.

Oh argued that Seoul’s slogan should appeal more to foreigners, unlike the current slogan, which he believes strictly targets only locals.

Seoul’s slogan should be able to match its international status and be more relatable to foreign tourists and investors -- something that can amplify foreigners’ positive feelings about South Korea and Seoul, Oh said.

The incumbent mayor and mayoral candidate said he would consult with experts in related fields to come up with a new slogan instead of making it a public project -- meaning the new slogan will not be put to a public vote.

Oh’s decision to change the city’s slogan came amid anticipated increases in the number of foreign visitors to Seoul after the pandemic.

Oh said tourism in Seoul will soon be officially back on track after a two-year setback due to the pandemic. One of the first major events to kick this off would be the Seoul E-Prix 2022 in August, a Formula E electric vehicle racing competition.

In terms of his other election pledges, Oh said the main focus of his election campaign is on welfare policies for the low-income population. Oh also promised that he would try to restore social mobility through new policies related to education, welfare, jobs and housing for those in need.

On the Yoon’s administration’s decision to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan-gu and its potential impact on Seoul’s redevelopment plan for the area, Oh said the relocation will speed up development projects in nearby areas, instead of slowing them down.

The US’ returning of parcels of Yongsan Garrison is expected to accelerate, according to Oh. The state-led project to build a park and other refurbishment plans for the area will also gain momentum, Oh added.

In regard to ongoing traffic disruptions around the new presidential office caused by disability rights activists, Oh said they will be temporary. Oh added that the new park areas that will be built close to the new presidential office will be able to accommodate demonstrations later on.

About Oh’s sizable lead in recent polls, the mayoral candidate remained cautious. The upcoming race will be a neck-and-neck battle with only a 3 to 5 percent margin, he said.

Oh explained that the decisive win he had in a by-election in 2021 was possible mainly due to the citizens’ dissatisfaction with the Moon administration. This negative sentiment has since been largely resolved through the presidential election, so the People Power Party may no longer be able to benefit from that, he said.


By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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