Park inaugurated in low-key affair streamed online
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, the independent liberal activist who was swept into City Hall last month, was formally sworn into office in a ceremony befitting his unconventional profile: the inauguration was held in his office and was streamed online.
In a first for Seoul, Park eschewed reporters, an audience and a large stadium of inaugurations of yore in favor of a low-key ceremony, interacting with citizens who watched from their computers and posted well wishes via social networking sites on a Web site specially made for the event.
“I guess this kind of inauguration would be the first in the world,” Park, 55, said to the camera in his office at City Hall Annex in central Seoul.
As many as 744,000 people streamed at least part of the ceremony at one point through the Web site, though the average viewership over the course of the one-hour event was roughly 55,000.
More of a housewarming party than a grandiose event, Park gave viewers a tour of his office, opening the door, pointing out and explaining his personal belongings, documents, photos and furniture.
“When I walked into the mayor’s office for the first time, it was so large that I felt as if I were on a school playground,” Park said. “So I halved the office and use the remaining half as the secretary’s office.”
A wall covered in small sticky notes was the first thing in his office the new mayor showed to viewers, with each slip of paper containing handwritten messages from citizens about their wishes for Seoul. The notes were collected during the campaign.
“This wall is my favorite part in my office,” Park said.
Taking viewers over to two bookshelves that were tilted on their sides in opposite directions, Park said, “Like the two shelves, I think our society is much too polarized by ideology, generation and region. I will exert my efforts to reconcile disputes and polarization and become a mayor for all.”
In his office were also several bricks that were used to pave a sidewalk.
“They are bricks, once used to pave a sidewalk,” Park said. “They were thrown away in several places in Seoul and I collected them. I will be a mayor who doesn’t carry out sidewalk constructions so frequently that people call me ‘sidewalk mayor.’?”
The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s frequent sidewalk repairs and reconstruction across the capital had come under criticism from some members of the public as a waste of money, usually amounting to at least 10 billion won ($8.8 million) annually.
Park invited members of the Seoul Metropolitan Council and high-ranking city government officials to the office for his cyber-inauguration, stressing his desire for better relations between the two bodies after former Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s often acrimonious relationship with the opposition Democratic Party-dominated council.
“The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Metropolitan Council are two wheels of a wagon,” Park said. “If one of the wheels doesn’t roll, neither does the other. Both should cooperate with each other.”
The official part of the inauguration - saluting the national flag, singing the national anthem and taking the oath - took about five minutes and was led by a vice mayor.
After the inauguration, Park brought out his iPad to show comments from citizens and ambassadors who uploaded messages onto the inauguration’s Web site.
“Seo Dong-gug, a citizen, told me ‘It is quite an honor for me to attend a mayoral inauguration ceremony,’?” Park said. “Oh, there’s Kim Esther, who sent a message from Texas as well.”
Taking the oath of office, Park pledged to boost welfare programs in Seoul.
“I will become a mayor of welfare,” Park said. “Welfare is not a free benefit or waste. It is an investment and savings on human beings with the highest interest. I will make Seoul a city where people are provided an equal level of welfare wherever they live, northern or southern Seoul.”
By Kim Hee-jin [firstname.lastname@example.org]