Seoul willing to help Delhi tackle urban challenges Park Won-soon, the Mayor of the South Korean Capital city of Seoul was recently in Delhi for talks on cooperation in tackling urban challenges, like air pollution. He met Union ministers and top functionaries of the Delhi government during the course of his trip. A recipient of the Magsaysay Award for public service, he has been the Mayor of Seoul since 2011.

In this interview to Ashok Tuteja, the Mayor discusses possible tie-ups between “startups” in India and South Korea, among other issues.

Park Won-soon
Park Won-soon

What was the objective of your visit to India?

The population of India is more than 1.3 billion, and its economic growth rate exceeds 7 per cent. India is a country Seoul should pay attention to as a “blue ocean” partner in economic exchanges. It was the first official visit made by the Mayor of Seoul.  I visited India to explore a new market and facilitate exchanges among small and medium enterprises and startups in two countries, refraining from those among big companies, in a way of city diplomacy beyond a nation diplomacy.

“Economic exchange” was a top priority on this trip. During my visit to India, I attended the opening ceremony of the Seoul-India Economic Exchange Centre, which will serve as a main base for exchanges of startups and small and medium businesses between Seoul and India. In addition, with 10 promising Korean startups, selected from a ten to one competition, I had IR (investor relations) meetings with Indian business persons to lay a foundation for startup exchanges.

As it happens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing ahead with “Startup India” and “Digital India” initiatives that support startups in India and make India a hub of the world’s information technology industry. Given the fact that both Korea and India are the world’s best IT powerhouses, I expect that we will see more active startup exchanges and advances into each other’s market in the near future.

Can you please tell us about your meetings with Indian officials?

I met with key figures who are leading economic and political policies of India, including the Governor of Delhi, the Chief Minister of Delhi, and the Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs. We promised to share growth policies with each other and make closer cooperation between the     two countries and two cities as well.

Seoul already has experience in resolving diverse urban challenges the city of Delhi is currently facing ~ about air quality, transportation, smart city and urban infrastructure. So we are willing to share our know-how with Delhi, a city in a period of transition of urbanisation. In particular, I think Seoul can contribute to the implementation process of three projects India is strongly pushing forward ~ Clean India, Housing for All, and Smart City.


What are the similarities you noticed between Seoul and Delhi?

Seoul and Delhi, having a population of 10 million and 18 million, respectively, are the two global cities that share a common destiny. India is following in the same footsteps. Seoul had taken half a century ago. In this sense, we have an exceptional bond of sympathy. Seoul went through rapid urbanisation, called the “Miracle of the Hangang (or Han River)”. It resulted in numerous after-effects, such as a rapid increase in population, traffic congestion, water and sewage problem, public transportation and housing shortage.

Seoul had undergone many trials and errors to solve these problems and taken diverse challenges. As a result, Seoul becomes a city that exports best know-how and practices of public transportation, water and sewage system and e-government to the world. Policy know-how and experiences Seoul had accumulated will serve an important milestone for the City of Delhi to solve the problems. We are willing to put our heads together with Delhi.