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Oh Se-hoon

a South Korean politician who is currently the serving Mayor of Seoul since 8 April 2021
Summary

Oh Se-hoon is a South Korean politician who is currently serving as the 38th Mayor of Seoul since 8 April 2021. He also previously served as a member of the National Assembly of South Korea from 2000 to 2004, and as the mayor of Seoul from 2006 to 2011. Oh Se-hoon worked as a lawyer before entering into politics after being elected as a member of the Korean National Assembly in 2000 at the age of 40.

After graduating from Korea University’s prestigious School of Law, Oh Se-hoon began his career as a successful attorney who won numerous significant cases. He developed an interest in politics and attended the Graduate School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London as a fellow, where he studied successful examples of major cities around the world improving their economy and job markets. 

Oh was eventually elected as a lawmaker for the nation’s conservative party in the 14th National Assembly of South Korea in 2000, officially beginning his career in politics. Oh made a name for himself by pushing for laws that brought more transparency to money in politics, which even led to complaints from some of his fellow party members.

Biography

Oh was born in Seongdong-gu, Seoul. He graduated from Daeil High School and went on to study at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. He graduated from Korea University's School of Law and became a lawyer. In 2000, Oh was elected as a member of the 16th National Assembly of South Korea.

On July 1, 2006, Oh began his first term as the mayor of Seoul. During this first term, Oh pursued multiple ambitious design projects, including the now-famous Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) and Sebitseom. Sebitseom are three artificial islands in Seoul’s Han River. Some of his ideas were less successful, however, such as the attempt at subway stations without roofs, which led to constant flooding.

Oh had spent time in London, United Kingdom as a fellow at the Graduate School of Social Science and Public Policy at King's College London, focusing on major cities around the world seeking ways to create jobs and help promote economic growth.

In 2010, Oh Se-hoon was re-elected to a second term, but that ended with his early resignation. At the time, Oh opposed the City Council’s proposal to offer free lunches to all school children, and insisted that it be restricted to the poor and needy – and bet his mayoral position that the citizens of Seoul would agree. They didn’t. After losing the referendum on the issue of free school lunches for children, Oh resigned from mayorship.

During his 2021 campaign, Oh's top priority was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing safety measures that would help ease the restrictions on small local businesses and reduce the negative impact the pandemic had had on them.

Another promise was that of solving Seoul’s “real estate depression”. Oh Se-hoon planned to achieve this by pushing for heavy reforms in housing and development policies and regulations, ideally resulting in an increased supply of housing units and reduced real estate prices and taxes.

He won the election and took Mayor's office, winning the by-elections in 2021 by 57.50%, and in 2022 elections by 59.05%.


Vision

Some of the key issues addressed by Oh as a politician included:

  • Oh was involved with the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, participating in a celebration video for the organization alongside foundation chairman Park Bum-Shin and Seoul Arts Director Ahn Eun-Mi.
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza was constructed during his tenure.
  • When asked about the Seoul Queer Culture Festival during the 2021 Seoul mayoral race, Oh stated that "In a broader spectrum, the principle is that the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities, must be protected and there should be no discrimination." He further went on to say, “I think the debate was on the queer festival being held in the central area near City Hall and Gwanghwamun Plaza, and the city of Seoul has a special committee to make a decision, and there are rules to that as well.”
  • Although most Seoul residents choose to drink bottled mineral water, it has been reported that Oh Se-hoon not only vouches for but drinks the city's tap water. Encouraging Seoul residents to drink tap water and reduce dependence on bottled water, as well as publicizing the cleanliness of Seoul tap water has been a pet project for Oh. Seoul City has recently put forward new regulations on tap water and the focus has gone from not just safe water but the water that tastes great.

Recognition and Awards
Oh is known for leading the legislative process of the Political Reform Law, also referred to as the “Oh Se-hoon Law”, which was helpful in establishing a transparent election culture in Korea. During his terms as the 33rd and 34th Mayor of Seoul from 2006 to 2010, he introduced “Creative Governance” in city administration and implemented the “Women Happiness” project, which led to Seoul receiving two UN Public Service Awards in 2009. He adopted “Design Seoul” policies to raise city competitiveness, and Seoul was designated as the UNESCO World Design Capital in 2010. His “SHift” policy, which is a long-term rental housing policy for the middle class and particularly for those who are not homeowners, was recognised by the UN as an exemplary urban housing policy. Also in 2010, he initiated the founding of WeGO, the World e-Government Organisation (World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization), the aim of which is to facilitate exchanges and cooperation among cities in the world to ensure sustainable development in the future. He served as WeGO’s first President. Later, as a member of an advisory group for KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency), he traveled to Lima, Peru and Kigali, Rwanda to actively promote Seoul’s best practices in city administration to developing countries. He is currently serving as the 38th Mayor of Seoul and is focused not only on leading swift and effective measures to tackle COVID-19, but also on putting Seoul alongside globally competitive top cities in the world with special emphasis on developing cutting-edge science and technology and the international financial industry.

References
Oh Se-hoon
Residence
South Korea
Occupation
Politician, lawyer
Education
Law (Korea University), Fellow (The Graduate School of Social Science and Public Policy at King's College London)
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