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Seoul Mayor Park cruises to third term

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon celebrates after securing his third term in an overwhelming victory at his election campaign office in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

By Kang Seung-woo

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon won his third term in an overwhelming victory, Wednesday, becoming the first Seoul mayor to serve three straight terms.

The former lawyer and civic activist first won the post in the 2011 by-election.

Newly mandated, Park will seek to transform the capital into a "smart city" in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution as he pledged on the campaign trail.

To this end, Park designated six strategic initiatives the metropolitan government will focus on, including the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. Seoul's knowhow in creating a smart city has gained recognition as the city has sat atop the global e-government rankings since 2003.

In addition, the 62-year-old promised to create a 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 million) venture capital for startups and nurture 5,000 startups.

Park is also expected to make efforts for balanced regional development in Seoul, taking advantage of excess earnings clawed back from apartment reconstruction and expanding the safety net for owner-operators.

Amid the inter-Korean rapprochement, Park is also expected to focus on cooperation and exchanges with North Korea.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon celebrates with supporters after securing his third term in an overwhelming victory at his election campaign office in Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Seoul plans to suggest Pyongyang that the two capital cities co-host the 100th National Sports Festival in 2019 and revive the now-defunct Gyeongseong-Pyongyang Football event. Gyeongseong is an old name for Seoul.

Park made the proposals when he met with Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean exchanges, on the sidelines of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Park also proposed the football exchanges to Chang Ung, the North's lone International Olympic Committee (IOC) member last year.

The event was started in 1929 in Seoul and held annually until 1935, before being revived in 1946 following liberation and then ending in 1948 when the Korean Peninsula was divided.

He also proposed a joint performance between the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and the North's State Symphony Orchestra.

The Seoul mayorship carries extra weight as the post is seen as a springboard to the presidency.

Thanks to his re-election, Park will once again establish himself as a competitive candidate for the presidential election in 2022. Ahead of the presidential election in May last year, Park considered running as a candidate for the Democratic Party of Korea, but he decided not to join the primary and President Moon Jae-in won.