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City Diplomacy Strategies for Exporting Policy Solutions of the Seoul Metropolitan Government

Chang YiㆍMeekyong Song

City of Seoul has been getting the spotlight in the international stage as a sustainable smart city. Indeed, Seoul has made a great leap from a devastated city because of the Korean war to a global metropolis in the 21st century. It is the outcome of outstanding policy solutions to solve its urban problems for decades. City governments in developing countries without proper infrastructure have expressed strong interests in learning from Seoul. 

In this context, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) had establisehd the Global Urban Partnership Division in 2014 to export its policy solutions to cities in other countries. SMG has focused on the Official Development Assistance (ODA). However, the ultimate goal is to generate profits by exporting solutions developed in Seoul. This goal has yet to be reached. The potentials in policy solutions of Seoul have not been fully realized. 

This study suggests two ways to reach the goal of making profit envisaged in exporting Seoul policy solutions. First, the city of Seoul should strengthen its public diplomacy effort. To export, there should be the need for import. When citizens in other countries have positive views on policy solutions in Seoul, it is then ready for the SMG to export policy solutions to cities around the world. This study evaluates the public diplomacy programs, currently being implemented in Seoul, and proposes strategies to make its effort more effective. 

Second, the study reviews how other cities have succeeded in exporting their policy solutions. Cases from Singapore and Netherlands have been examined. Based on the overseas examples, we propose 1) SMG should strengthen its relationship with the national government. City diplomacy may be more effective if international network accumulated by the national government is utilized for the benefit of Seoul; 2) The effort to export solutions should start with ‘software’ transfer to cities in developing countries. Software refers to institutions, regulations, attitudes, and experiences in advanced administrative systems in Seoul. The SMG needs a strategy to link software transfer to  ‘hardware’ sales; 3) SMG should consider Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) that have collaborated with the SMG as the primary agents for generating profit by exporting urban solutions. 

Towards that end, the role of the Seoul Urban Solution Agency (SUSA) must be changed. Now it is one of the principal agents engaged in exporting Seoul solutions and making profit. In the future, the SUSA should focus on promoting the private sector to facilitate successful generation of profits by the SMEs in an effort to export policy solutions from Seoul. In other words, the SUSA should act as a catalyst for exporting solutions and making profits, and not as a main actor.