Yu Hairong, Han Ximin
VISITORS to Seoul are impressed by the city’s cleanliness. They are also impressed by the efforts of its mayor in environmental and ecological protection.
At the World Mayors Council on Climate Change which was held in Brazil in October 2012, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was selected as chairman of the council. He was praised by the council for his determination and faith in environmental and ecological protection.
“Between the 1960s and 1980s, Seoul completed its industrialization and rose from the ruins of war. However, at the same time it forgot its past and attained its economic growth at the cost of its most valuable assets — traditional culture and the environment. One of the major tasks facing the Seoul government is to protect the environment and this situation has been greatly improved in recent years,” Park said in a recent interview with Shenzhen Special Zone Daily.
Since the mid-1990s, Seoul has been taking action to improve its air quality.
“Every resident in Seoul has realized the importance of environmental protection and played their part in this action,” said Park.
In Seoul, around 99 percent of the buses, or 7,464 in total, have used condensed natural gas. The city’s 23,000 vehicles which had been used for more than seven years were retrofitted with devices to reduce emissions.
The measures greatly reduced air pollution. The government is trying to maintain its air quality at the level of Jeju Island at the end of 2014.
“Our environmental protection efforts aren’t simply confined to the improvement of air quality. We are trying to build an environmental protection system with the participation of residents, instead of the government alone. Without solid public support, our effort will be fruitless,” said Park.
“The ultimate goal of government is to benefit residents. Without their participation, our policy couldn’t be implemented effectively,” said Park.
“Energy conservation is also an imperative issue that we face. As far as Seoul is concerned, we are introducing a Nuclear Plant Reduction Program, which means we will save 2 million TOEs (tons of oil equivalents) in 2014, the amount of energy generated by a nuclear plant. To meet this end, we must reduce our energy consumption and increase the production of renewable resources.
This project, if it proved to be a success in 2014, will not only benefit Seoul, but also sets an example for South Korea and neighboring countries, according to Park.
“The Nuclear Plant Reduction Program is a major step for Seoul in the fight against global climate change. We don’t advocate the closing of nuclear plants, but we expect to work together to save energy, starting from neighborhoods,” said Park.
Learning from other cities and other countries is also an important task for Seoul. Seoul’s environmental policy is to shift from an energy consuming city to an energy producing city.
“We are now introducing solar and hydrogen energy to public transport and infrastructure. Around 1,000 schools and newly built apartments will use solar-powered heaters. One quarter of energy in the new office building of the Seoul government will also use solar energy and terrestrial heat,” said Park.
Seoul consumed 17 million TOEs in 2011, mainly in households, transportation and businesses, accounting for 89 percent of total energy.
For a greener Seoul, the city will strengthen production of solar energy, biological energy, hydrogen batteries, and development of hydropower and renewable resources such as garbage power and terrestrial heat.
“By 2014, we can generate 410,000 TOE energy through use of solar and hydrogen power and reduction of 7.33 million tons of carbon dioxide,” said Park.
Park Won-soon, born March 26 1956, was a lawyer before he went into politics. He was elected mayor of Seoul on Oct. 26, 2011.
Prior to his election, Park was a social justice and human rights activist for 30 years, dating back to his time at Seoul National University in the 1970s when he was expelled for protesting the policies of President Park Chung-hee and imprisoned for four months.
In 1994, he was a principal founder of the nonprofit watchdog organization People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy which monitored government regulatory practices and combated political corruption.
In 2006, he founded the Hope Institute, a think tank designed to promote solutions arising from grass-roots suggestions for social, educational, environmental, and political problems.
Park was inaugurated as the Chair of World Mayors Council on Climate Change in October 2012.
City of Seoul
Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. The Seoul National Capital Area, which includes the surrounding Incheon metropolis and Gyeonggi Province, is the world’s second-largest metropolitan area with over 25 million people, home to over half of South Koreans along with 366,000 international residents.
Seoul is a rising global city, due to a period of rapid economic growth known as the Miracle of the Han River between 1953 and 1996.
It hosts the world’s sixth-largest number of Fortune 500 multinational companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia.
Seoul’s infrastructure is highly advanced. It has the world’s highest fiber-optic broadband penetration, resulting in the world’s fastest Internet connections with speeds of up to 1Gbps.