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Q: In July last year, you have taken radical steps to transform Seoul's public traffic and transportation system. As time goes on, citizens are commenting more favorably on it. What is your opinion on these changes of perception and do you have any additional plans
A: As you correctly said, Seoul has introduced radical measures for the improvement of the mass transport system including the bus system and subway system. However, due to drastic changes in the mass transport system, there were a great deal of worries and criticisms in the beginning. But as time goes on, more and more citizens are coming forward with favorable comments on the new system. The first step I had taken from the beginning of this project was that all the relevant parties including traffic experts, citizen's organizations, bus companies, and labor unions should join in this project in order to reach consensus on the necessity of traffic system reform and its basic directions. Thanks to this consensus and democratic way of pushing forward this project, we could endure all the criticisms and difficulties caused in the progress of the traffic system reform. It is noticeable that, entering this year, many advanced cities of British, Japan, and Germany are visiting Seoul for the purpose of studying Seoul's public traffic system. Recently, Seoul is exporting its technologies and know-how to such large cities as Moscow, Beijing,
Q: Last June, you have won a prize, "Personality of the Year 2005" by fDi, a foreign investment magazine published by the Financial Times Group. Could you explain why you were selected as a recipient of this award
A: The "fDi" is a monthly magazine focusing on direct investment issues. The editor of the magazine said that mayor Lee has played a key role in the restructuring of the city's financial system and the easing of regulations related to foreign investment. The editor went on to say that his efforts to make Seoul a better place to live in have worked in a way to make it a more business-friendly city as well. In 2003, this award was given to the Mexican president Vicente Fox and in 2004 to the Brazilian president Lula. So, I am the first mayor to receive this award. It is a great honor to me. But I would like to say that this award was possible only because of Seoul citizens' cooperation and incessant efforts of all Seoul city officials.
Q: Last June and July you visited Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey and Hanoi in Vietnam. What was the purpose of your visit
A: I have made a joint declaration with the mayor of Seoul's sister city Ankara, in order to strengthen exchange and cooperation in the economic, environmental, cultural, and traffic fields. Also, I have signed an agreement with the Istanbul mayor for the technology transfer of Seoul's public traffic management system. And then in Vietnam I signed an MOU with the Hanoi mayor for the establishment of e-government. This is the second case of exporting our e-government model, following the case of Moscow last November.
Q: The CheongGyeCheon Restoration Project is expected to be finalized successfully as scheduled. Could you briefly tell us some of your thoughts on this project and a few hidden stories behind this project
A: Currently, the progress rate of the CheongGyeCheon Restoration Project stands at 98 percent, and so it will be dedicated 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.
On the other hand, to tell the truth, there were serious conflicts and difficulties socially and technologically in the beginning stage. There were about 220,000 merchants and 1,500 small street vendors located in the ChenongGye- Cheon area who has to leave the area. The most difficult task was to persuade them to leave their workplaces. We had to meet with them on numerous occasions in an effort to solve this problem smoothly.
Q: We know that Seoul city plans to build a Digital Media City in Sangamdong, Mapo-gu. Could you give us a brief explanation
A: The DMC (Digital Media City) is scheduled to be completed in 2010. It will be a kind of state-of-the-art media entertainment cluster equipped with worldclass 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.