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Digital Subscriptions > Cities Today > Issue 23 > The people’s champion

The people’s champion

With South Korea mired in political scandal, the achievements of Park Won-soon, the Mayor of Seoul, might yet catapult him into the president’s office. Steve Hoare spoke to the mayor about his policies for community-led development of the country’s capital

Park Won-soon’s career before he became mayor marks him out as one of politics’ good guys. And if there is one thing that South Korea needs right now it is a good guy.

Before assuming the role of mayor in 2011, Park worked mainly for NGOs after a spell as District Attorney at the Daegu district prosecutor’s office. His time as Secretary General of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (Motto: ‘Let’s make the world a better place with people power’) and Executive Director of The Beautiful Foundation (Mission: ‘Making sharing a part of life for a society thriving together’) reveal a political outsider markedly different from the populist nationalists making waves in the west.

In December, South Korea’s parliament voted to impeach the president following the scandal surrounding President Park Guen-hye’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil with allegations of Rasputin-like corruption, occult practices and illegal influence which has seen the arrest of the CEO of Samsung.

If that vote is upheld by the country’s supreme court, an election will follow in 60 days. Park is far from the favourite but many expect him to run and the scandal has certainly got him thinking. His focus, however, is on the people rather than himself.

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