By Vice Chairman Sion Khan and Feature Editor Kim Young-myung
Chairperson Choi Yoonnam of the Nowon District Council in Seoul said, “Many people make great efforts to increase their happiness index and it is the fixed aim of our district to make it one where the people would say: ‘I do not want to leave the Nowon-gu District where I wish to stay for good’.”
This statement by Chairperson Choi was made at a recent interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language media publications since 1985. Details of the interview follow:
Question: Seoul has 25 autonomous districts. What are the unique features of Nowon-gu that you can boast about in Nowon-gu?
Answer: The Nowon-gu District was created as a planned city, but in fact, it has the lowest financial independence in all the 25 autonomous districts. Nowon-gu is noted for beautiful mountains and fields which come in beautiful harmony with the surroundings. Our District has been developed as a planned city, and currently, about 82% of the housing in our district consists of apartments.
However, there are not many jobs in our district and so the residents here go to work in districts and this is the bed-town. Because of its low rate of financial independence, Nowon-gu is reviving with a lot of support from the city and central government.
Nowon-gu has many mountains such as Dobong-san, Buram-san, Seoraksan, Yeongchuksan and Choansan, and the air is very clean and clear. Due to this nature of the region, it was difficult to develop other industries. This time, the slogan of the 7th mayor of the district, Mr. Oh Seung-rok, encourages: “Let's raise the happiness index of the people and to this end we should try to make a community that is excellent to live in. Proper focus on the education of children is important and so is the creation of a special educational zone.” Nowon-gu has a large variety and number of educational systems and policies.
Q: Please introduce the education welfare at Nowon-gu:
A: Unlike other autonomous districts in Nowon-gu, the Education Welfare Foundation and Environmental Foundation were established in the early times. In general, many cultural foundations are built, but Nowon-gu has many old natural villages, and original residents have a poor living environment. There are many places such as Baeksa Village and Hope Village that were not developed and remained as they were 30 or 50 years ago. Little by little, while preserving nature, we are promoting development, but there are still many things to do.
Mayor Oh took a special interest in the preservation and creation of parks—instead of constructing buildings.
Q: What measures have been taken to control COVID-19:
A: The Nowon-gu District is also well known for advanced measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 epidemic.
We are trying to stay away from Corona 19 through policies that have been consistently promoted in advance even before the current Corona 19 crisis erupted--such as saving the park and making it easier to walk around the park.
We also took special measures for the children. Parents of many children in our district do double-harnessing, where husband and wife have to work.
We have set up a plan to build a total of 40 ‘rest centers’ for such children and at of them have already been completed.
In our district, the teachers volunteer to look after the children after school until their parents come home. Volunteers come to serve and they read books for the children.
Q: What are your plans to increase the happiness index of your people?
A: Many people make great efforts to increase their happiness index and it is the fixed aim of the District where the people would say: “I do not want to leave the Nowon-gu District where I wish to stay for good.”
Nowon-gu has built the first zero-energy house in Korea. It has been said a long time ago that we need to switch to renewable energy, but Korea has four distinctly different seasons, and in summer, it rains a lot, making it difficult to secure sunlight, and there were many negative opinions about the different reasons.
Q: Do you have any suggestions or recommendations you wish to make to the Central Government?
A: I have been active for 6 years after my election as the first-time council member. It there is anything where I might find room for improvement I would say that the current National Assembly is not in a two-party system, but a multi-party system. The members, in my opinion, are overly partisan- oriented. Since there are little means of control, disagreement and conflict occur and as time goes on the situation, in my opinion may not readily improve. We must try to think of the people first. I think about Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address that it must be “of the people, for the people and by the people.”
Our lawmakers are elected to work for and on behalf of the people. You must try to think and do things from stand point of the people. Starting with this basic mind, concessions, harmony, and agreement are also possible. The people are criticizing politics. Not voting means giving up your rights.
Q: Please introduce yourself in detail:
A: Actually, I wasn't interested in politics, but I think my literacy and temperament have been prepared through training since I was a child. When I entered middle school, my IQ was 134 at that time. It was the second highest in the whole school. I inherited from my parents and got my grades by just properly managing my notes without much effort, and I continued to be the leader at my class at school. My teachers gave me nice remarks.
Since elementary school, I have been doing big and small things for the class and for the school. I am from a devout Christian family. Also, my husband, like me, was elected as a leader wherever he went and served as the head of a church school for 30 years. (For further details, see attached resume at the end of this report.)
Q: What was your dream when you were young?
A: I was born in a very conservative-oriented and I did not do things against the will of my father'.
When I was in the 6th grade of elementary school, there were 3 class leaders, and I was the second one.
My father was a very strict person and would not condone with children’s spending. At such times when President Kim Dae-Jung deceased and President Roh Moo-hyun died, I didn't have any money to buy condolence flowers and so I bought flowers from the flower shop and made them myself and put them at the altar.
Resume of Chairperson Choi Yoonnam of the Nowon-gu District Council:
Born in Namwon, Jeollabuk-do
Master of Public Administration, Graduate School of Policy, Korea University
Floor leader of the Democratic Party of Korea at the 8th-term National Assembly
Chairperson of the Steering Committee of Nowon-gu Council in the second half of the 7th term
Secretary-general of the Council of the Chairmen of the Steering Committees of the Districts of the Seoul City
(Former) Vice-Chairperson of the Democratic Party Committee on Women of the Democratic Party of Korea
New Politics Alliance for Democracy
Chairperson of Council of Gongneung 1-Dong of the Nowon A District of the Democratic Party.
Director of the Situation Office of the Nowon A District for Presidential Candidate Moon Jae-in Moon
A member of the National Unification Advisory Council directly under the control of the President.