High Line and the Seoul mayoral election
High Line and the Seoul mayoral election
  • Professor Kim Hyungjoon of the Department of Liber
  • 승인 2014.04.04 17:26
  • 수정 2014-04-06 11:00
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Candidates should compete to address issues that would improve citizens' life


The ruling Saenuri Partys candidates for the Seoul mayoral election, Chung Mongjoon, former Prime Minister Kim Hwangsik, and Supreme Council member Lee Hyehoon (from left), at the opening ceremony of candidate Kims election camp on March 24.
The ruling Saenuri Party's candidates for the Seoul mayoral election, Chung Mongjoon, former Prime Minister Kim Hwangsik, and Supreme Council member Lee Hyehoon (from left), at the opening ceremony of candidate Kim's election camp on March 24.

Manhattan is well-known for its landmarks including the 102-story Empire State Building constructed in 1931, the World Trade Center being rebuilt on the site known as "Ground Zero," the George Washington Bridge that connects Manhattan and New Jersey, and the Statue of Liberty located near the Ellis Island. In 2009, the High Line, a public park built on an elevated freight rail line that has been abandoned for 30 years, was added to the list of popular structures.

Last weekend, my family and I went to the High Line and walked for about an hour. It was a great joy strolling along forests situated in the middle of New York. While the Hudson River lies to the southeast of the park, skyscrapers are clustered in the west. Below the park located 9m above the ground were cars and people passing by. Some people were lying on wooden beach benches installed on railroad tracks and they were enjoying the Spring sun. Away from their city life and surrounded by trees and bushes, visitors appeared relaxed.

Many New Yorkers fell in love with the park which has already become an exemplary urban restoration project. According to Joshua David and Robert Hammond, founders of the park, numerous citizens have committed and contributed to the construction of the park. Although some people were uncertain and doubtful, Friends of the High Line volunteered and raised fund to save the railway from demolition. Their effort was supported by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, urban planning introduced after the 9/11 attacks, and the court which ruled in favor of citizens.

It was of great significance that citizens, politicians, legal professionals, and urban planners cooperated to raise the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The park was one of the most impressive feats of an urban plan in that it embraced both city development and environmental protection.

Recently, in Korea, candidates for local elections to be held on June 6 have been vying to seek nomination. Citizens' eyes, in particular, are on candidates for the Seoul mayoral job which is seen as the most influential post outside the central government and as a 'Make-or-break' point of local elections. The ruling Saenuri Party’s primary which will take place on April 30 is going to be a fierce battle between three players: former Chairman of the Grand National Party Chung Mongjoon, former Prime Minister Kim Hwangsik, and Saenuri Supreme Council member Lee Hye Hoon. So far no one from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy has declared bid for the election to challenge the incumbent mayor Park Wonsoon.

In general, candidates make pledges to win people’s heart and vote. It is through such promises that candidates reach out to the public. In the 1960s, the University of Michigan suggested a model to explain voters’ behavior. The research team showed that ‘party unity,’ ‘policies,’ and ‘the image of a candidate’ play a critical role in the decision-making process of voters. While ‘party unity’ was the most important factor in the 1960s, ‘the image of a candidate’ has become the most essential element these days. Nevertheless, ‘policies’ are the decisive factor because they have a direct impact on people’s life. A case in point is the issue of the provision of free lunches for all schoolchildren proposed during local elections in 2010. Unfortunately, however, there are no hot potatoes this time.

Frankly speaking, the upcoming Seoul mayoral election is equivalent to an interim evaluation for the incumbent mayor Park who will be relected if Seoul citizens think that the quality of life in Seoul has been improved or is likely to be improved in the near future and that his promises have been well kept. If not, he will be replaced.

All the Saenuri candidates have bitterly pointed out that Park has done nothing for the city. After all, Park’s future lies in the hands of citizens who have high hopes that contestants will compete with one another to offer ways and policies that will have a direct and positive impact on people’s life, just like New York’s High Line has fascinated New Yorkers. In addition, I strongly suggest candidates keep in mind that “Women’s success guarantees a success of the city as a whole.”


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