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How the citizens of Seoul benefit from a sharing culture and an enhanced listening policy

Author: Jinhwa Park, Secondee
Published Date: 18 January 2016

It has already been a year since Mr. Won-soon Park started his second term as the Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), on 1st July 2014. During his first term, he emphasized ‘openness’ and ‘participation’ in SMG’s policies. And then, his second term as Seoul Mayor (the 6th term of a directly elected Seoul Mayor) began with strong focus on ‘Innovation’, ‘Public-Private Cooperation’, and ‘Communication’. He sees that these can help citizens of Seoul change their lives for the better. In order to implement Mayor Park’s policies well, SMG has spread the importance of sharing culture, supported town communities effectively, and enhanced the listening policy. 

‘Sharing’ and ‘Town Community’: Social Innovation that can change the lives of Seoul citizens

1. Diffusion of Sharing Culture: Announcing ‘The Next Step for Sharing Seoul’ on April 20th, 2015

SMG proclaimed ‘The Sharing City Seoul Project’ on September 20th 2012, along with a plan to conduct projects of sharing closely related to the lives of citizens, and to create and diffuse the basis for the sharing. The Sharing City Seoul projects are social innovation measures that have been designed to create new economic opportunities, to restore reliable relationships, and to reduce the wasting of resources with a view to resolving urban economic, social, and environmental problems all together. In contrast to sharing programs often found in the Western countries, Sharing City Seoul Project is the first of its kind developed by a municipality and administered at the municipal government level. To lay the groundwork for the promotion of sharing resources, and to support organizations enterprises in sharing, SMG enacted and proclaimed its sharing promotion rules on December 31st 2012. SMG set up the Seoul Sharing Promotion Committee as its (private sector) governance mechanism on February 14 2013, and constructed the Seoul Sharing Hub that is the pool of online platforms of various enterprise and organizations for sharing. In addition, SMG designated 57 sharing organisations and businesses and provided administrative support, public relations consulting, and financial support.

As a result, Seoul’s most successful sharing enterprises are showing impressive growth: car sharing enterprises ‘Green Car’ and ‘SoCar’, created in 2013, have over 400,000 members; parking lot sharing platform ‘Moducompany’ has shared 2,000 parking spaces in residential areas which are available during the daytime; children’s clothing sharing company ‘Kiple’ was affiliated with 230 daycare centers and has shared 8 million pieces of clothing. SMG concluded that the result of sharing had the economic effect of about 4,840 million won.

For these efforts, SMG has received international recognition. On October 8, 2014, SMG received Special Mention at the 2014 Metropolis Awards, from the international organization Metropolis. The organization recognized Seoul’s sharing city legislation and 2 years of progress spreading the sharing culture and helping to solve social problems. Furthermore, representatives from many cities, like Busan and Bristol, have visited Seoul to learn about the city’s sharing policies.

Based on these successful results, SMG is planning for a second project in order to further address urban problems through sharing and to socially expand the concept. SMG is going to expand these sharing concepts to citizens’ everyday lives including Resident Parking Only, introducing the concept of sharing children’s clothes to the entire districts in Seoul, and trialing car sharing in apartment complexes instead of just within public parking lots. Furthermore, by constant yearly improvement, the current sharing businesses will be diversified with more than 300 initiatives by 2018. In addition, SMG plans to operate different businesses to meet diversified needs for housewives, young people, working professionals, and retirees. It also plans to discover and disseminate models for outstanding ‘Sharing Businesses’ that can make progress in communities and schools by designing sharing communities and sharing schools. SMG estimates that the second run of sharing projects can enable city residents to save 12 billion won annually, SMG to save 1.18 trillion won, create 1,280 new jobs, and reduce CO2 emissions by 29,800 tons.

2. Residents lead Town Communities: Governance system by Public-Private Cooperation

Korea has continued to grow rapidly. This led to uncontrolled urbanization, excessive anonymity, and a collapse of the community. Seoul’s moving rate is around 20%, which is high within a global comparison. This indirectly shows how weak the local community is. Development-oriented city policies intensified conflict among people and eroded the space-based community. Lesser community space weakened community ties and eroded the happiness and quality of life of the city residents. To address the uncontrolled urbanization, deteriorating quality of life caused by intense competition, collapse of the community, and accelerating human alienation and other social problems, SMG saw the need for communities for sustainable development and people’s happiness and started the town community project, which encourages residents to build their own community; the Basic Plan for Seoul’s Town Community was announced in September 2012.

In the town project, residents can make proposals, establish and implement plans, and take follow-up measures. SMG provides training, consulting, and counseling to enable residents to find their common interests and build their own community. Residents can make proposals all year round. Anyone with a good cause for all in mind, and will to realize his/her idea, can apply for the Town communities project.

It has already been 3 years since the launch of the Town Community project. During the 3 years, SMG has attracted voluntary participation from residents and provided administrative and financial support for their activities in Town community. As a result, more than 70,000 citizens have participated in the Town Community activities and more than 2,700 town communities have been made. In other words, residents (Seoul citizens) have become the key players in solving their own problems and increasing the livability of their town. In the Town Community Project, the principle that residents themselves create their town communities because of their own enthusiasm, is fundamental. SMG respects their decisions and gives administrative and financial support, which is necessary for community growth. In conclusion, residents can offer informed solutions to SMG should any issues arise, through an effective bottom-up arrangement. Through this project, SMG builds up Public-Private Cooperation effectively.

Enhancement of the Listening Policy: Strengthen Participation Policy through communication with citizens

1. Honorary Vice-Mayor: The Field Messenger who connects citizens with the SMG

The SMG introduced the currently operational ‘Honorary Vice-Mayor’ system, in order to gather opinions and voices from the field and to reflect them in the City’s administration. To that end, the SMG has appointed honorary vice-mayors who represent 12 different groups; the elderly, the disabled, traditional merchants, foreigners, women, youth, small businesses, culture and arts circles, tourism, urban safety, environmentalists, and young adults. These honorary vice-mayors represent the hidden voices in the field, which are then reflected in Seoul’s policies.

Beginning with the appointment of 3 honorary vice-mayors of ‘elderly’, ‘the disabled’, and ‘youth’ in 2012, a further 9 honorary vice-mayors of different fields were appointed as of October 2014 to participate in 678 activities, including meetings, discussions and events, such as the opening of the Seoul Senior Center, and inspections of traditional markets. From now on, the honorary vice-mayors will do their best as communication channels to reflect the voice of the people in Seoul’s policies.

2. Eungdapso: Integrated Online Civil Complaints and Suggestion Management System

In the past, each department and division in the SMG separately received and handled related complaints and suggestions from citizens, which caused an inconvenience for citizens. In addition, if the employees in charge of handling the complaints were careless, responses to the problems were delayed or not provided. Reports regarding the process of handling complaints and suggestions were insufficient, and the process of submitting additional inquires was difficult, resulting in lack of overall feedback after the complaints and suggestions were received.

Therefore, the SMG began Eundapso, an integrated online compliant and suggestion filing system, which merged all the independent complaint and suggestion channels into one, on March 5, 2014.

All complaints and suggestions can now be filed at Eungdapso, which was created in order to listen to every single Seoul citizen. To process all the complaints and suggestions faster than before, relatively simple complaints are immediately answered by Eungdapso, without contacting specific departments or divisions, and for complaints that are uncertain as to which department they should be handled by, the department in charge is determined through coordinated meetings.

Due to these efforts, the average duration of handling complaints has been shortened by a day compared to 2013(3.8 days in 2013 -> 2.8 days in 2014). Now, people can submit additional inquiries immediately at Eungdapso, which provides practical and real services for Seoul citizens.