Smart Cities

The Mayor of Seoul Rolls Out a Smart City

This interview is an excerpt from a story that originally appeared in It Is Innovation (i3) magazine, published by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®.

Overview Park Won-soon, three-term mayor of Seoul, has worked to advance Seoul as one of the first smart cities in the world, paving the way for communities around the globe.

Mayor of Seoul Park Won-soon founded the Beautiful Foundation to promote a culture of philanthropy in South Korea. He also founded the Beautiful Store, a second-hand store to spread the culture of giving and sharing with others, and the Hope Institute, a think tank with the goal of applying policy alternatives based on the ideas of ordinary citizens.

Known as a “social designer,” Park has dedicated his career to bringing about fresh change, and he has been recognized with the Ramon Magsaysay Award, called the “Nobel Prize of Asia.”

Now in his third term as mayor of Seoul, making him the longest serving mayor of Seoul in the history of South Korea, Park is continuing to ensure collaborative governance with citizens in the policy decision-making process, and promoting e-governance and smart cities.

He talked about what it means for Seoul to be one of the first smart cities in the world.


What makes a city smart?

The “dynamics of the city” and the “participation of citizens” are the factors that make a city smart. A “smart city” is the product of mankind's agony and introspection on how to make life happier and fuller, and the output of both the city and the citizens by actively realizing and using state-of-the-art technologies.

Moreover, a smart city has become the most useful method to enhance the quality of life of citizens and an efficient tool to resolve global urban challenges. Beyond its dominant status as the best global e-government in the world for seven consecutive years, Seoul is now leaping forward as a leading smart city in the world based on big data and new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

More than anything else, the voluntary participation of Seoul citizens and the combination of new attempts and innovative challenges utilizing cutting-edge technologies by the public and private sectors are making Seoul’s own smart city differentiate itself from other cities.


How is Seoul paving the way for other cities to become smart cities?

Seoul is a state-of-the-art city that boasts the world’s best information and communication network where people can enjoy free high-speed Wi-Fi, even in moving buses and subway trains. It also has the highest retention rate of smartphone users on the globe.

Based on these strengths, Seoul is now writing a new chapter in the history of smart cities in various areas that are closely linked with the lives of its citizens, such as in transportation, economy and the environment.

Among them, the area in great demand and with the biggest ripple effects on the citizens is transportation. Seoul has significantly enhanced the convenience of public transportation through “Seoul’s Intelligent Traffic System,” Smart Transportation Card and Bus Information System.

In 2010, Seoul established the WeGO (World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization) to support sustainable urban development and also to narrow the information gap through exchanges and cooperations with world cities for the smart city area.

WeGo has members from 177 cities and corporations. Seoul is also supporting other cities by exporting smart city solutions including TOPIS (Transport Operation and Information Service), loT-embedded LED streetlights and smart garbage processing systems.


How did Seoul achieve the rank of the #1 smart city?

There are three factors that constitute a smart city: smart city infrastructure, innovative companies with cutting-edge technologies, and smart citizens.

First, Seoul has a cutting-edge smart city infrastructure. Korea is the first country that commercialized 5G communications, and you can gain free access to Wi-Fi even in moving buses and subway trains. Seoul is taking a step further to become a “free data city” by 2022, where anyone can use public Wi-Fi free of charge anywhere in the city.

Second, in Seoul, innovative companies equipped with creative ideas and cutting-edge technologies can participate in the policy-making process. The public and private sectors can resolve urban problems together. We are making a new value chain in the process by creating opportunities to further develop the already verified technologies and making them profit-making models.

Third, Seoul is actively operating the “digital communication system” that connects the world class smart infrastructure to smart citizens and expanding citizen’s engagement. Some of the examples are “Democracy Seoul,” a citizen participation policy proposal platform; “M-Voting,” a mobile voting system; and “Seoul Online Civil Complaints,” an online/mobile window to register and process civil complaints.

Learn more about how Park and the city of Seoul are encouraging innovation in i3 magazine

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