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Former SMEs minister vows to expand hydrogen mobility in Seoul

Sole candidate from the ruling bloc pledges to handle Seoul’s overflowing waste on its own

Seoul mayoral candidate Park Young-sun speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at her camp located in Anguk-dong, Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Seoul mayoral candidate Park Young-sun speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at her camp located in Anguk-dong, Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Seoul mayoral candidate Park Young-sun says there are three things at the top of her agenda to make the city cleaner and safer if she is elected: Expanding green areas, boosting eco-friendly mobility and tackling the capital’s overflowing waste problem.

In December, Seoul set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and going carbon neutral by 2050 in line with the global environmental trends. But the city has a long way to go as it struggles to combat worsening air pollution, overflowing landfills and environmentally destructive real estate development.

The former minister of SMEs and Startups, also the sole candidate from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, is aware of the severity of the city’s environmental problems.

“I think the fundamental cause for the current climate crisis is due to the growth-oriented development and consumption by destroying the global ecological environment,” Park said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“In order to achieve the city’s zero carbon goal, we need to fundamentally transform the city form,” she said.

She has vowed to turn Seoul into a “21-minute compact city,” a concept in which basic necessities such as work, education, child care, health care and leisure, are within a 21-minute reach by foot. This way, there will be less traffic congestion and as a result, less gas emission from vehicles, Park explained.

“We will also increase the green area ratio of Seoul to 40 percent by 2025, by making urban forest roads, vertical gardens and rooftop gardens to create a healthy and refreshing Seoul that goes toward carbon neutrality,” she said.

Switching to more sustainable energy sources and boosting green mobility is also a necessity for a zero carbon city, the candidate said.

“(When I was a lawmaker) my nickname used to be ‘a woman like hydrogen.’ The name was given in recognition of my efforts of turning to eco-friendly energy,” she said.

Seeing a hydrogen economy as necessary for the future, Park launched a hydrogen economic forum, a research group for lawmakers, and proposed bills to manage hydrogen safety and promote the supply of hydrogen cars. Back in 2018, her election pledge for the mayoral race was “Hydrogen Economic City Seoul.”

“The key to the transition to eco-friendly energy lies in how fast we can transform internal combustion engine vehicles into eco-friendly mobility. In the process, expanding stable charging environment should come hand in hand,” Park said.

There are 789 electric vehicle quick chargers and four hydrogen charging stations in Seoul, as of January. The city plans to increase the number to 1,500 EV charging stations and 11 hydrogen charging stations by 2025.

“I believe at least one hydrogen charging station should be installed and operated in a ‘21-minute compact city,’ and the number of fast chargers for EVs should be more than 1,500 (by 2025),” she said.

“We will also build an environment where we can use eco-friendly transportation methods, including the public bike Ttareungyi, more safely and conveniently,” she said.

As for Seoul’s growing household waste, Park said she would create a long-term road map for the city to resolve the problem of its overloaded landfills on its own. All of Seoul’s household waste goes to a landfill in Incheon, which borders the capital. But Incheon residents have long complained that the city is overburdened with overflowing waste from the metropolitan area. The amount of household waste sent to the landfills from Seoul has increased from 240,000 metric tons in 2015 to 340,000 tons in 2020.

“Fundamentally, it is important to reduce waste itself. Since the pandemic, waste generation has been increasing rapidly due to the surge in the use of sanitary products such as masks and the spread of non-face-to-face lifestyle,” Park said.

“First, we will improve the waste separation and collection system. We will also strengthen incentives for citizens to boost recycling and strengthen compensation for companies purchasing, collecting and screening recycling waste,” she said.

Globally, waste disposal trends show that handling waste via recycling and incineration are on the rise while landfills are decreasing, she said.

“We will establish a system that maximizes reuse, recycling and hot temperature incineration to reclaim a minimal amount of cinders from incineration,” she said.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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