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'Woman of steel' charts a new course for Seongnam

Seongnam Mayor Eun Soo-mi helps the city to better battle COVID-19 while building new transportation network

Jan. 27, 2021 - 15:55 By Song Donna
Seongnam Mayor Eun Soo-mi (Seongnam City)
Seongnam Mayor Eun Soo-mi is famous for her fight against COVID-19. The Seongnam Citizens Medical Center has saved hundreds of COVID-19 patients.

“Two years ago, I was chosen by a million citizens to become mayor,” Eun said. “I put in full effort and achieved abundant results. This is all thanks to the citizens.”

Since her election, Eun has ranked No. 1 two consecutive years in the National Local Government Evaluation among the 16 cities with populations of more than 500,000 people.

Seongnam has worked hard to secure its reputation as the top city for business. It created the nation’s first drone test airfield and related 5G air networks, established a precise digital map for the nation’s first autonomous driving program and hosted the nation’s first public big data open innovation event.

In addition, Seongnam has secured a number of firsts, including the nation’s first heat pipe safety inspections using drones, the More Comfortable Safety Care Certification System for long-term care centers, and the intelligent mobile registered shipping system.

“When I took office, the most important thing I focused on was resolving old challenges,” she said. The creation of Bokjeong-dong Water Purification Plant had been delayed for eight years due to the lack of state funding. It was finally settled as the city secured 14.4 billion won in state funds. The city plans to sign an agreement in July to build the underground facility.

Seongnam Citizens Medical Center has officially started operating a pandemic emergency center as well as 22 other medical sectors last May.

In addition, the Seongho Market Modernization Project, which had drawn countless project views since 1992, established a TF promotion team on Sanseong-daero immediately after taking office and finally signed a business agreement with Land and Housing Corp. with hopes for completion in 2024.

Seongnam is stepping up its projects with the aim of becoming the Asian Silicon Valley, a good city to raise children, a city for working citizens and social workers, with thorough connections and a clean administration and creative culture.

Even COVID-19 cannot stop the mayor.

”We are already struggling in a war against COVID-19 with three principles: expanding social distancing, narrowing the gap for human rights and taking a new leap forward. Now, while putting Seongnam as the Asian Silicon Valley at the center, we will strive to create a warm and creative city with our fellow citizens,” she said.

An aerial view of the Pangyo Techno Valley (Seongnam City)
Asian Silicon Valley Seongnam

By 2022, the city will invest 1.27 trillion won to further elevate the Asian Silicon Valley Seongnam project.

The project, announced in October 2018, established the Asian Silicon Valley office in October, and operates a support council with 31 experts in related fields.

In the first Pangyo Techno Valley, the Pangyo Contents Street will be established by June 2021, and a 400-seat esports stadium will be built in 2023. In addition, the city will speed up the designation of special zones for games and content.

This picture shows a blueprint of the Pangyo esports stadium. (Seongnam City)
Tram Lines 1 and 2 of Seongnam City Metro are currently undergoing a pre-feasibility study. In addition to expanding personal mobility, including shared electric bicycles and parking lots, the number of public city buses, commuting charter buses and three-door low-floor buses will also be expanded.

The second Pangyo Techno Valley will be completed in 2021 and the third Pangyo Techno Valley will be completed in Siheung-dong and Geumto-dong by 2024. At the end of this year, a global ICT Convergence Planet will be built near the second Pangyo Techno Valley, where related companies in the ICT sector, including gazelle companies and global anchor companies, will be set up.

In addition, it also attracted Silicon Valley startup accelerators and successful companies like HP Printing Korea. Kaist AI Graduate school also set up a research center in the area. It raised 72.7 billion won in venture funding and will add 50 billion won this year.

High Tech Valley is preparing to invest 22.2 billion won in order to change into a hub for advanced high-tech knowledge by expanding parking lots, roads and parks. It will also build a five-story cultural start-up business complex at 645 Sangdaewong by 2022.

Makerspace, located at Gachon University, opened in July to help companies in the bio-health sector develop products. High Tech Valley Makerspace will be created at the Seongnam Industrial Complex Corporation Administration Office to help revitalize the manufacturing industry.

The Bundang Venture Valley will be established as a knowledge business hub for IT and biotechnology that will operate startup centers. The Jeongja-dong Housing Exhibition Hall will have a bio-health hub by 2026, which aims to play a central role in the bio-health industry. It will also build a connect and development platform by this year to create a bio-health industrial belt that follows medical institutions such as the Bundang Seoul National University Hospital along with Yatap, High Tech and Pangyo Techno Valley.

A MICE cluster is due for completion by 2024 in Jeongja-dong. A basic concept and a development plan will be drawn up by the end of this year and the development process will start in July 2022.

Eun emphasized, “We will expand the convenience of being connected in all directions in blind-spot-free Seongnam.”

This picture depicts the tram installation in Pangyo. (Seongnam City)
Better transportation network

The Seongnam bus public management system began building a well-connected transportation welfare system including one line in Godong-dong starting last March, one each in Dongwon-dong and Sangdaewon-dong starting in May and two lines in Seongnam High Tech Valley, which all come together as 13 lines with 104 buses operating on them. Construction of the Super-Bus Rapid Transit (S-BRT), which is run on a traffic priority system, will begin in 2023. The first section ranges from the Moran intersection to Dandae five-way street. This innovative transportation operation system further enhances the status of Seongnam as well as public transportation convenience.

The tram project for Seongnam Subway Line 2 is undergoing a pre-feasibility study, after which a basic plan will be launched based on the results. Construction is underway for Seongnam Station on the new Samseong-Dongtan metropolitan express railway with the goal of opening in 2023. Wirye Line 8 Chuga Station is scheduled to open later this year.

The extension of Moran-Pangyo Station on Line 1 and Line 8 of Seongnam Metro began its feasibility study in November last year. The Wirye-Sinsa Line extension is being carried out in hopes of being reflected in the fourth National Rail Network Construction Plan.

In addition, Seongnam, Suwon and Yongin in Gyeonggi Province, got together to sign a joint agreement in February to extend Seoul Subway Line 3.

Congestion on Local Route 57 (Seongnam-Gwangju) are also being resolved. The city signed a business agreement with Gwangju in December to carry out improvements such as the establishment of new railways and roads. The construction of Namhansanseong Ring Road will be completed in September and noise reduction facilities on the Bundang-Suseo Urban Expressway will be installed by the end of next year.

“It is a good city to raise children and it will continue to be on another level,” Eun said.

Seongnam has already made a name for itself as the “best city to raise children” through the Seongnam education system (111.3 billion won invested in 2020), and also with the nation’s first child allowance system. By 2022, it aims to boost usage of public day care centers to help accommodate up to 8,000 people, up from the current 5,724. Eight more centers of the Community-Based Childcare Program, which includes children’s restaurants, will be set up this year, including in Godong-dong, increasing to 32 centers by 2022. The Yeosu-dong Childcare Support Center will be ready to greet citizens by the end of this year.

“We are also fully committed and prepared to preventing child abuse,” Eun said.

For the first time in the country, Seongnam will publish a case-oriented booklet for child abuse prevention and distribute it to parents. Starting in October, four social welfare officials and four case management staff will be assigned to strengthen public responsibility for reporting, registering and investigating work that has previously been carried out by private institutions.

In addition, the city’s website has already launched a service to those who wish to receive counseling anonymously in a bid to prevent sex crimes against minors such as the “Nth room” incident.

“We will also eliminate blind spots in children’s medical care by pushing for the nation’s first cap of 1 million won on child medical expenses that parents have to bear,” she said. “Since its first application in July last year, the number of beneficiaries has been increasing. Based on such efforts, we will make sure to receive the Child Friendly Cities Initiative UNICEF certification for 139,364 future gems in Seongnam, by the end of the year.”

”We will also keep our promise to Seongnam, so it can act as a fence for working citizens and young people (against the COVID-19 pandemic),“ Eun said.

She has already floated a national employment insurance policy that will encompass non-standard workers, special employment workers, platform workers, freelancers and more. For this, the government has prepared an ordinance for workers in Seongnam. Specific outlines will be released in November.

Mayor Eun promotes children’s medical care by implementing the nation’s first cap of 1 million won on personal-burden expenses. (Seongnam City)
Support for youth

Under Mayor Eun, Seongnam also invests in support for young people. Following the first branch of the Youth Support Center in Shinheung Station, the second branch of the Youth Support Center in Pangyo Station, to open in September, will be 200 square meters in size. It will be used as a venue for communication, including a shared kitchen and a trendy lounge. It will provide integrated services for young people, with startup cafes, job innovation centers and other programs.

Work experiences and quality jobs will be provided to young people who are preparing for employment. These opportunities will include 220 positions in region-led jobs, 50 in work experience support, 50 internships for mask-sale pharmacies during COVID-19, 500 emergency disaster support internships and 430 local administration experience training placements for college students.

In preparation for the Framework Act on Youth implementation in August, the government will authorize a network to reflect the diverse voices of young people in its policies, train youth activists and regulate the operation of the Youth Policy Committee.

In addition, the city announced in July it would seek tenants for Dandae-dong Haengbok Housing (60 units), targeting newlyweds and young people. Residents will begin moving in early this year. By 2022 it will supply 1,700 units of Haengbok Housing to Wirye, Sangdaewon High Tech Valley and the second Pangyo Techno Valley.

“As much as space is an important factor in expanding people’s energy, we will accelerate urban maintenance projects and revitalize alley communities,“ Eun said.

In early June, the 2035 Urban Master Plan received its final approval from Gyeonggi Province and is set to be presented to citizens. In order to secure more residential space and to prepare a migrating complex for the redevelopment of the original city, 3.027 square kilometers of development land will be secured as a planned site for urbanization and created accordingly to the step-by-step plan.

In addition, customized maintenance projects in Taepyeong 2-dong and Taepyeong 4-dong will be completed by June 2021, those in Sujin 2-dong will be completed by December this year and urban reconstruction in Taepyeong 2-dong and Taepyeong 4-dong will lead the city’s leading urban redevelopment projects.

Taepyeong-dong Central Public Market opened in September, while the Seongnam-dong Seongho Market signed a business agreement with LH Corp. in June. With approvals for the implementation plan and housing construction plan, it will speed up facility modernization with the aim of beginning the project in the first half of 2022.

Moran traditional shopping district will be reborn as a market specializing in street food and restaurants by 2023.

The Sujeong Community Center, will be built in November in the Sujeong-ro commercial district, which will include work spaces, sports facilities and other resident conveniences along with a parking lot with 635 spaces.

”We cannot overlook support policies to revitalize the side-street economy,“ Eun emphasized.

The importance of the city’s currency has grown with COVID-19. At least 86 percent of users with children’s allowance check cards paid in the local currency said they were highly satisfied. The emergency support of the Seongnam Agreement Safety Fund of 189.3 billion won has already raised the consumption rate from minus 29 percent in the previous year to 3 percent, proving the power of the Seongnam currency, which is the backbone of community consumption economic activities.

As a city that utilizes all three types of local currency, including paper money, cards and mobile payments, this year’s issuance alone amounts up to 365.2 billion won for local organizations nationwide. As a result, it is going to issue 300 billion won by 2022 to 250 banks and 20,000 franchises. Special guarantees (secondary conservation) are provided to small business owners who lack collateral.

Cultural icon

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Gwangju Daedanji Uprising, an ordinance was enacted last July to shed light on the incident’s historical significance and value. This year, which marks the uprising’s 50th anniversary, various commemorative projects will be carried out, including academic discussions in the form of “untact” talk shows, exhibitions and cultural artworks. In order to record Seongnam’s urban cultural history, it will begin a survey of lifestyle culture in the redevelopment area of Sanseong-dong in August and a survey of buildings built during the time of the Gwangju Daedanji Uprising will also begin. The education building of the City Museum, which is under construction on the site of the first industrial complex, will be completed in December next year.

Unjung Children’s Park will be available to citizens again in August, the first Industrial Complex Neighborhood Park and the Daewang Reservoir Waterfront Park are slated for opening by the end of 2021 and the Million Neighborhood Park by the end of 2023. Of 12 abandoned areas, seven land purchases, including Daewon Park and Yuldong Park, will be completed by 2022. By next October, Cheonggye Mountain Forest Park, which is packed with broadleaf trees such as oaks and colonies of pine trees, will be opened to citizens and provide them with a rest area filled with phytoncides -- airborne compounds that experts say can relieve stress and lower blood pressure.

The Seongnam Football Center, which will be used as Seongnam FC’s clubhouse, will finally be completed in March next year. The main stadium at the Seongnam Sports Complex is currently under consideration to become its official soccer field.

“I will make a cleaner Seongnam,” Eun said.

Seongnam will reduce the total amount of fine dust caused by vehicle emissions by 114 metric tons by next year.

A total of 2,000 cars are planned to be supplied by 2022, including 500 eco-friendly electric vehicles, 30 electric cargo vehicles and 30 electric two-wheeled vehicles. By the end of the year, a total of 200 buses, including 49 transit city buses, will be converted into electric buses by 2022, and a total of 500 hydrogen electric vehicles will be supplied by 2022.

Some 11,900 old diesel vehicles with fifth-grade emission levels will also be retired by next year. It will spend 3 billion won to set up hydrogen charging stations in Galhyeon-dong by the end of this year. It is also planning to install a complex charging station in the Seoul toll booth’s high-pass center on the Gyeongbu Expressway. In addition, it also plans to open a station in Bundang this year.

“The health and safety of our citizens are the constants,” she said.

The Bokjeong Water Treatment Plant, which is responsible for the supply of clean water for the city’s 1 million residents, will push for the improvement of advanced water treatment facilities and water purification plants by December 2023. The third phase of the 8.5 km water maintenance project and the sewage pipe maintenance project (33.4 km total) will be completed by the end of 2022.

The government’s push to build a new Seongnam incinerator with a maximum daily capacity of 500 tons will also gain momentum with state funding that was followed by a preliminary feasibility study exemption project last December. It will quickly implement related administrative measures and begin construction in 2021 and aim for completion in 2024.

Urban forests will continue to be created as a means to reduce fine dust, and urban ecological status maps will be updated throughout Seongnam by next September. The creation and restoration of buffer green zones such as the Gyeongbu Expressway and the Siheungcheon Ecological River will be completed by the end of next year.

On top of this, 1,402 security cameras will be installed in 253 locations and the quality of 278 cameras will be improved. A special fluorescent material application project for crime prevention will be implemented in a total of 4,728 locations (2,609 in Sujeong 1,518 in Jungwon, 601 in Bundang) by the end of this year. Not even Spider-Man can climb it. The construction of heat maps using drones to form efficient policies for heat waves will continue this summer.

Drones are used to sanitize the Moran Market during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Seongnam City)
Innovative administration

“I will show you the essence of an ‘untact’ administration as a future city,” Eun promised.

Seongnam has already spent about 1.3 billion won to install thermal cameras in 156 elementary, middle and high schools. It has supported the purchase of online learning tools. For the first time in Korea, all of its 59 lifelong learning courses have been offered online. Close to 230,000 books have been borrowed via a drive-through and walk-through book rental in 57 days.

An online performance of the Seongnam Philharmonic Orchestra has 30,000 views. Based on such experiences, Seongnam will take the lead in the era of “untact” -- reduced face to face contact -- such as promoting remote working, video interviews, online civil complaints, remote treatment at health centers and online performances.

The smart local water supply business using information and communication technology has also been selected for the national public offering project and will be executed from August. As a result, it is possible to take quick action when responding to accidents in the case of ruptured water pipes through a stable tap water supply and constant water quality monitoring.

The city will also aim to make strides with the development of self-driving cars. Data generated during driving sessions with the self-driving vehicles will be provided to the Seongnam administration, startups and research centers free of charge to support self-driving big data and the development of the AI industry. With this, it will also expand the big data platform to create remote working positions.

“In all of these practices, the citizens are the leaders,” Eun said.

She is determined to emphasize trust, with the idea that nothing can be accomplished without belief.

“We will share and find ways to move forward in Seongnam with young people, senior citizens and the civil society through the resident participation budget system, cooperative governance committee and a public policy forum.”

Eun works for unity. She was deeply moved and felt the greatness of the community through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The dedication of numerous volunteers who hand-make cotton masks and carefully sanitize drive-through vehicles, the support and donations from large and small local companies -- this unity is what will gradually lead Seongnam’s efforts to become a creative city that foresees Korea’s future.

In Seongnam, empathy comes first. It cares for the lives and safety of citizens through communication and comfort beyond generational disconnection, rejection, class and regional gaps. Eun and some 3,000 Seongnam officials work to create a city where culture and rest seep into daily life through empathetic administration. Eun said, ”I will look after your mornings and evenings so that not one citizen of Seongnam is overlooked.“

“Greatness is not something exclusively given to special people. We all have it. I thank you all for teaching me this greatness and I have no words for the love and respect I have toward all.”

“Seongnam exists only for you, the citizens. We will always be together,” she said.

By Song Donna and Park Joung-kyu (  (