By Chief Editor Kim Hyung-dae with Reporter Shin Jin-seon
For Osan Mayor Kwak Sang-wook, the June 13 local elections in 2018 are significant in many ways. He is one of the two mayors who won the third term in Gyeonggi-do (province). Furthermore, he gained the highest rate (72.3%) of the vote across Seoul and the metropolitan area. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of Osan City, which means that he will serve more than a third of 30 years.
Observing the 30th anniversary of Osan’s promotion to city status, The Korea Post interviewed Mayor Kwak to talk about his vision for the future of Osan City. He has been busy building a solid foundation for the future 100 years in all areas, including citizens’ welfare, ecological environment, regional economy and jobs, culture and arts, in addition to the “Educational City,” a signature brand of Osan. A summary of the interview follows:
Question: What is your assessment of the 2018 performance when you began your third term in office?
Answer: I sincerely appreciate the citizens of Osan for choosing me in last year's mayoral election. A lot of people get reelected, but it's not easy to win the third term. I think I have moved the people's minds by stressing that we need four more years to complete the projects in progress. Our citizens gave so much love to me that we won the highest rates of votes. I feel a great sense of responsibility and mission for them. I will work hard to promote the welfare of citizens and facilitate the development of Osan City.
Q: What is your agenda of 2019?
A: For six months after last year's election, we spent most of time analyzing the pledges we had made to the citizens and the major projects we have been working on. We are determined to achieve best performances in various areas this year, especially considering that it is the “Year of the Golden Pig” and the city’s 30th anniversary. I think it is going to be a busy year for us.
Q: It has been 30 years since Osan City was established. How do you feel about that?
A: The 30th anniversary of Osan City is significant in many ways. In 1989, when the city gained city status, we had a population of 50,000 and a budget of less than 20 billion won, but now Osan has a population of 230,000 and are expecting 300,000. The budget has also grown to 700 billion won. While the area may be smaller than other cities, the administration size extends beyond the middle cities. While Osan could be referred to as “Youth Osan” for what it has achieved so far, the coming years could be a turning point for the centennial of the city.
Q: Osan is now seeking to solidify its status as the nation's best educational city in name and substance. I think you have a lot of special plans for this year.
A: Professor Tomapiquetti of France, author of “The 21st Century Capital," emphasized that education is the most important factor in rectifying future inequality. I firmly believe that education is a very important element that will determine the future of Osan. Shortly after I won my third term as mayor, I toured Finland, Sweden, Estonia and the U.K., which all put advanced educational systems in place. My observation was that everyone was moving toward future education with an open and universal education system.
I am thinking about how to further upgrade Osan’s education system, which has reached the highest level in Korea, during my next four years in office. This year is the starting line. With the aim of building a future educational infrastructure, we will seek to preserve the existing education community, promote specialized innovative education and universal education welfare, and build a makerspace to actively respond to the fourth industrial revolution. We also are planning to host a national career experience center and a career counseling center.
Q: In the process of Osan's development into an educational city like today, there were many difficulties and ups and downs, right?
A: When I first became mayor in 2010, people were leaving Osan due to educational problems. Families were moving out of the city to allow their younger sons and daughters to enter high schools in nearby big cities. I declared an all-out effort to address this problem. I promised to make Osan educational city, and made every effort toward this goal. It has completely changed now. As the new town in Dongtan is being built right next to Osan, some people are leaving in pursuit of new homes, but few people are now thinking about moving to other places mainly due to educational issues.
Q: What are the advantages of “Osan Education”?
A: Innovative education in Osan has not been realized overnight, but it's the result of efforts of all the community members. Parents study a lot, they give talent through learning, and out-of-school programs led by parents continue to expand. Recently, “Osan Education” is known throughout the country. Educators come to us from many places like Chungcheong-do, Gangwon-do, Yeoju, Hongcheon and Daejeon to benchmark. It is a heartening new that education that makes children happy spreads across the country. I am going to do my best to help.
Q: Lastly, could you talk about your vision of Osan’s future?
A: My basic philosophy about the administration of Osan is focused on citizens’ welfare. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Osan City, we are going to lay the foundation of the next 100 years with the next 30 years and 100 years in mind. Now that the city has achieved urban renewal through education and established its identity, we want to create a city where the whole city becomes a lifelong learning campus, a city of health and sports bicycles and a city of aquatic environments that traverses the city. We also aim to build a city of social economy, public economy and passionate economy based on values of family and community, and a city where these city softies are intertwined to enhance the quality of life of all its citizens.