저작권자 © Korea IT Times 무단전재 및 재배포 금지
During the past three years, Seoul has undergone sweeping changes, such as the public traffic system reform, the CheongGyeCheon [stream] Restoration Project, Seoul Forest, and the New Town Project under the inspired leadership of Mayor Lee Myung-Bak. In his interview with the Korea IT Times, he stressed his determination to devote himself to the city's continued economic vitalization and job creation during his remaining tenure, while implementing and finalizing these huge projects. Following the awards given for the CheongGyeCheon Restoration last year and the public traffic system reform this year, Mayor Lee has again won the Personality of the Year Award for his contribution to the restructuring of the city's financial system and easing of regulations related to foreign investment.
For eight days from June 28 through July 5, Mayor Lee has paid a formal visit to Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey, and Hanoi in Vietnam. He has made a joint declaration with Seoul's sister city Ankara in order to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the economic, environmental, cultural, and traffic fields. On July 2 he signed an agreement with Istanbul's mayor, Kadir Topbus, for the technology transfer of Seoul's public traffic management system. Also Mayor Lee has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hanoi's mayor for the establishment of e-government. This is the second case of exporting Seoul's e-government model, following the deal with Moscow last November. From now on, Seoul will help Hanoi city in establishing e-government and operation know-how, and many domestic IT companies who had participated in the e-government of Seoul will join in the system-building and solution-suggestion in cooperation with Vietnamese partner companies.
Radical Change of Seoul's Public Traffic System
In July last year, Mayor Lee introduced radical measures for the improvement of Seoul's public mass traffic system including the bus system and subway system.
However, due to its revolutionary changes in the mass transit system, there were initially a lot of concerns and criticisms.
However, a year later, most citizens are already giving it the thumbs up and commenting positively on its merits, particularly among the younger generation. Before he was elected as Seoul mayor, he already had a firm belief that Seoul's public traffic system should be reformed, and that if Seoul didn't take radical steps to bring this about, the capital city would soon lose its competitive edge. Consequently, immediately after his inauguration, the mayor began to prepare for the overhaul of Seoul's public traffic system. The most important requirement for the success of this project was that all the interested parties, including traffic experts, citizens' organizations, bus companies, and labor unions had to be persuaded to join hands in this project. It was very important to reach consensus on the necessity of traffic system reform and its basic directions.
Because of this consensus and the democratic way of pushing forward this project, the mayor could endure all the criticisms and difficulties in the initial stage of this traffic system reform. In fact, soon after the introduction of this traffic system reform on July 1, 2003, the media were quick to criticize it by pointing out various teething problems with the project.
Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, many young students said, "This is a good system, and we can transfer to another bus or subway without paying an additional fare. The new system is not based on the concept of a route, but on the concept of a network." When he heard their comments in the street, Mayor Lee told himself that many citizens were aware of the original intention of this new project. Another key factor in the successful implementation of Seoul's new public traffic system has come from Information Technology (IT). Thanks to the establishment of a new traffic card system, the number of passengers being transported per bus, per station, and per route could be analyzed on a real time basis. Also, considering the rush hours and quiet hours of the day, their routes, interval of bus allocation, and the number of bus operations could be coordinated properly on an ongoing basis. By using information technology, it has been able to introduce the "integrated distance-based fare system," so that citizens may transfer to a bus or a subway without paying an additional fee for the next 10 Km. This is the first such innovation in the world.
As the new public traffic system becomes stabilized, along with much improved service levels and reduced safety accidents, more and more citizens are responding positively to it, and many advanced cities in the UK, Japan, Germany, etc. are visiting Seoul to study this innovative system. Now Seoul is exporting her technologies and know-how to such large cities as Moscow, Beijing, Istanbul, and Hanoi, gradually raising the confidence and status of Seoul internationally. As a token of thanks, both domestic traffic-related organizations and the international Metropolis Berlin Meeting have presented awards to Mayor Lee in January and May respectively.
Historic Stream restored
Another epochal event in Seoul city's history is the CheongGyeCheon Restoration Project. Now it has completed 98 percent of its progress rate, the dedication ceremony will be held on October 1 as scheduled. During the summer season, the project team was conducting various trial tests including flood control, water quality, and landscape architecture. On June 1, Seoul city held a successful water-flow test for the first time since its ground-breaking ceremony. It was really an inspiring and exciting moment. The CheongGye stream, which had been covered with roads and concrete overpasses for a long time, glistened in the bright sunlight as the clear, clean water flowed. The sight of the stream flowing again after so long has special significance beyond merely environmental and cultural restoration. It seemed to open the hearts of Seoul citizens, washing away the darkness and sufferings of the hectic economic development period of the modern history of Seoul.
However, if we delve deeper into the origins of this project, there were a great deal of conflicts and difficulties socially and technologically in the beginning stage. There were 220,000 merchants and 1,500 small street vendors located in the CheongGyeCheon area who had to leave the area. The most difficult task was to persuade them to leave their workplace. The project team had met numerous times with these small businessmen in an effort to solve these problems smoothly.
More green zones
On June 18, "Seoul Forest" was opened. Like the Central Park of New York, a new urban green zone of 350,000 pyeong has been provided for the Seoul citizens to enjoy. Ddukseom area, where there had been a golf course and a horse-racing course in the past, could have generated profits of about 4 trillion won if it were developed into a residential area by building apartments or commercial buildings. But we judged that it will be far more meaningful for our citizens and descendants to make it a green zone instead of a residential or commercial area.
After construction work of 2 years and five months, "Seoul Forest" has been transformed into a citizen's forest filled with thick woods and wild animals. With all these efforts for the expansion of the green zone in Seoul, Mayor Lee still thinks that Seoul needs much more green zone and natural environments. Accordingly, he plans to transform the U.S. Army Base in Yongsan into a green area once the U.S. Forces Korea is relocated to Pyongtaek area, south of Seoul. If his plan is successfully implemented, Seoul citizens will have access to a huge park similar in size to New York's Central Park. When that time comes, Seoul will have well-balanced green areas all around the city.
Ubiquitous digital city
Meanwhile, Seoul plans to build Digital Media City (DMC) in Sangam-dong, Mapogu, which is scheduled to be completed in 2010. It will be a kind of state-of-the-art media entertainment cluster equipped with world-class information infrastructure, including super high-speed optical network and wireless LAN. It will become a ubiquitous city where all sorts of digital technologies will be realized in this are of DMC. It is also a test-bed where the digital media entertainment of broadcasting, movies, animation, games and music, and the R&D, production, distribution, and consumption of an IT industry will be represented in this DMC. Mayor Lee believes that the successful completion of DMC will contribute significantly to Seoul becoming an economic hub of Northeast Asia.