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Mayors Forum represents Seoul's aspiration for urban diplomacy

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Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, right, poses with New York City Mayor Eric Adams at New York City Hall, Sept. 18 (local time), after they signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) under which the two cities will enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields, including business, society, climate and culture. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

By Sah Dong-seok

It's no exaggeration to say that it is the age of cities, given that the largest portion of the world's population lives and works in cities. If Seoul actively engages in urban diplomacy, it will surely spearhead the sustainable development of the world.

Against this backdrop, delegations from 50 cities from 30 countries will converge in Seoul to attend the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum (WCSMF) held Sept. 24-26 at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). It will be the largest international conference held in Seoul since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2023 WCSMF is taking place in Seoul as the city won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in 2018. Winning the award automatically qualifies a city as the forum's next host.

The forum, which runs under the theme "Liveable and Sustainable Cities: Forging an Inclusive and Resilient Future," is also drawing 200 business leaders and representatives from international organizations.

During the forum, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon will propose "Going Together With the Socially Neglected" as the agenda to create sustainable and resilient cities. The forum consists of four sessions: inclusive societies, conservation of culture and heritage, carbon neutrality and climate resilience, and innovation and creativity. Two to three cities will make case presentations in each session.

Seoul plans to introduce its inclusive policies, including the Seoul Safety Income Project and the Seoul Learn. It will also run a technology exhibition with innovative companies to showcase Seoul's cutting-edge lifestyle using robots and biotech. Additionally, the city will operate on-site visiting programs such as customized tours for delegates to share policy knowhow.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon talks with Korean War veterans at The Battery, formerly known as Battery Park, in New York, Sept. 18 (local time), during an official business trip to the U.S. city. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

Mayor Oh is second to none when it comes to urban diplomacy activities. He was elected the co-president of the World Association of the Major Metropolises at the 14th Metropolis World Congress held in Brussels in June. Oh will lead the association from 2024 to 2026 along with five other co-presidents from the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, China's Guangzhou, Uruguay's Montevideo, Iran's Teheran and Belgium's Brussels-Capital Region.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government says co-leading the association will serve as a good occasion for Seoul to share various welfare and smart city policies and public transportation systems with other member cities. Seoul also won the bid to host the next congress to be held to commemorate the association's 40th anniversary in June 2025.

In July this year, Mayor Oh was selected as a "Champion Mayor" by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in recognition of his leading role in mitigating inequality under his policies to focus on the vulnerable. He will share the city's policy vision with 63 cities around the world through public projects and programs that focus on livelihood, housing, education and health care.

The OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a coalition created in 2016 by the OECD with the support of America's Ford Foundation and other organizations. Currently, mayors from 63 cities, including Paris, Tokyo and Rome, serve as Champion Mayors, sharing their experiences in tackling inequality and bringing the voice of local governments to the international community.

Seoul City also offered diverse programs to the Scout members who participated in the 2023 World Scout Jamboree held in Saemangeum as part of its diplomatic activities in cooperation with the central government. Specifically, the city arranged city tour programs for British Scouts so that they could enjoy Seoul's night view aboard city tour buses. Discover Seoul Pass, a pass for tourist attractions, was also offered at a 30-percent discount to help them visit the city's popular tourist spots.

Kim Rahn


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