History of Seoul mayors
The author is an industry 1 team reporterof the JoongAng Ilbo.
The mayor of Seoul is called “the second president.” Governing the capital, the political weight of the Seoul mayor is second only to the president. Once elected, the mayor of Seoul is considered a presidential front-runner.
The authority is also powerful. As the only local government head treated as a ministerial level official, the mayor of Seoul can attend the cabinet meeting, the highest policy review venue. According to Article 8 of the Regulation on the Cabinet Meeting, the mayor of Seoul is the only local government head to attend the cabinet meeting. The mayor began to attend the cabinet meeting in late 1972, shortly after the October Restoration. This year, the budget of Seoul has surpassed 40 trillion won ($35.3 billion) for the first time. It is not an exaggeration to say the mayor of Seoul gets to experience all administrative tasks except national defense.
Two presidents served as the mayor of Seoul — Yun Bo-seon, the second mayor, and Lee Myung-bak, the 32nd. The 8th mayor Heo Jeong and 22nd mayor Kho Kun became prime minister.
Seoul mayors have lived through the modern history of Korea. The first popularly elected mayor was Kim Sang-don, the 11th. Known for his distinctive mustache, Kim began his term in December 1960, but stepped down with the Chang Myon cabinet due to the May 16 Coup in 1961. The 30th mayor Cho Soon is known as the first popularly elected mayor of Seoul, but that’s not true. He should be correctly referred to as the first popularly elected mayor after democratization.
The 12th mayor Yoon Tae-il was an active-duty Army major general and wore his military uniform in office. The 14th mayor Kim Hyun-ok was nicknamed “the bulldozer.” Upon appointment, he ordered the creation of the underpasses in Gwanghwamun Square.
The shortest-serving mayor in Seoul history was Kim Sang-cheol, the 26th. Due to a controversy over his arbitrarily changing the land classification for his residence in the green belt zone, Kim stepped down after a week. The 28th mayor Woo Myung-gyu, appointed after the Seongsu Bridge collapse, resigned after 11 days over his accountability in maintenance and management of the bridge while he was the deputy mayor for engineering.
The campaign for the Seoul mayoral by-election is in progress. Instead of election promises, there are only empty promises. The promise to provide housing through redevelopment and reconstruction may not be a promise a Seoul mayor can keep. There are things even the “second president” cannot do.