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Seoul's policies focus on inclusive growth, vibrant culture

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Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, center, attends a meeting at Seoul City Hall, April 12, to hear various opinions about a project pursued by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to make a better environment for parents to raise children. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

8 projects designed to expand welfare, boost quality of life
By Sah Dong-seok

Seoul, the capital of Korea, boasts a history of over 2,000 years. Most recently, Seoul has been sharing its development knowhow with cities around the world as global attention increases on the country's culture, technology and lifestyle.

Preparing for another leap into the future, Seoul is doing its utmost to address social polarization and promote urban innovation under its new slogan, "A Globally Attractive City, Going Together With the Socially Neglected." The slogal reflects Seoul's administrative philosophy vision in a future led by the city to enhance the country's competitiveness.

By 2030, Seoul aims to be reborn as a city offering equal opportunities where young people can achieve their dreams. To this end, the city has launched a pilot project to help households whose earnings fall below the median income. The Seoul Safety Income Project, the first policy experiment on income security in Korea, envisions providing financial support to 1,600 households earning 85 percent or less than the standard median income and holding assets of less than 326 million won ($272,000).

The project is designed to create a new welfare model needed to address income inequality and cope with changes in the job structure triggered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It started in July 2022 and will run through June 2025, while an analysis of its effectiveness will be carried out through December 2026.

Another task for the city to support the vulnerable is to restore the role of education in improving social standings by providing equitable opportunities. This need has led to the introduction of Seoul Learn and Seoul Learn 4050.

The Seoul Learn program is an online education platform to help young people with limited access to academic resources due to social and economic reasons. It is geared to help Seoul residents between the ages of six and 24 who meet the required income levels, including multicutural families and North Korean defectors. The Seoul Learn 4050 program is designed to help those aged 40 to 64 get vocational training and job support to prepare for their post-retirement lives.

Wrist Doctor 9988 is a projecct to enable Seoul citizens to prevent chronic diseases with their own self-directed health care efforts. It utilizes smartwatches and apps that collect, analyze and monitor health data. With the watches and the apps, people can check their health conditions and the city can offer personalized health care services as well as benefits according to the degree of their participation.

Seoul's final welfare goal is to offer childcare support to parents amid a chronically low birthrate. The Happy Parents Project focuses on offering effective solutions to age-specific and unique challenges faced by children aged through nine. In particular, the emphasis is on creating an environment where caregivers can perceive Seoul as an ideal place to raise children through the availability of various programs including expanded public childcare infrastructure and emergency childcare services.

Models pose during the 2024 S/S Seoul Fashion Week, which took place from Sept. 5 to 9 at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

Culturally rich city

There are also many projects designed to make Seoul a more attractive place to live.

The Great Han River Project is aimed at enhancing the charm of Seoul by taking advantage of the river that runs through the capital. It envisions making the river a central attraction of Seoul by creating urban hubs, enhancing the riverfront and improving transportation links, which will eventually boost the quality of life. Nodeul Island, in particular, will be developed as a landmark where people can enjoy music and art 365 days a year.

Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall has been reborn as a true civic space with the Outdoor Library project. Designed to cater to citizens' reading and leisure needs, the outdoor library features 11 specially designed bookshelves with 5,000 books, 1,600 seats and photo spots. Surprisingly, only three books have not been returned since it opened in April 2022, reflecting the mature sense of civic duty among Seoul residents. Opinion polls showed citizens' satisfaction rate reached 93.9 percent.

Seoul Festa and The Lifestyle Seoul also showcase the essence of Korean culture alongside various experience programs. Seoul Festa, held from April 30 to May 7 this year under the theme "Feel the Real Seoul," drew many tourists around the world and helped raise the city's profile as a top global tourist destination. The Lifestyle Seoul comprises of eight individual events showcasing the city's industry, lifestyles, tourism and culture, offering unique opportunities to experience Seoul's trends in fashion, cuisine and daily life.

The city government also created a metaverse to enable people to experience Seoul even from the opposite side of the globe. The Metaverse Seoul project comes in response to the increasing demand for non-face-to-face interactions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and marked progress in virtual convergence technologies. It offers various municipal services, including economics, culture, tourism, education and civil complaints through avatars in a 3-D virtual space. It was selected as the Best Invention by Time magazine in 2022.

Kim Rahn


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