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A Multiangled Diagnosis and Suggestions for Seoul’s Overseas Expansion of Excellent Policies

Min-gyu Lee, Eunhyun Park, Meekyong Song

Seoul Metropolitan City has shared excellent policies and supported overseas expansion of private businesses with three targets of addressing global city issues with joint efforts, playing a leading role in urban diplomacy for mutual growth, and encouraging overseas expansion of private companies. To achieve these goals, the city is promoting the three-step policies of Making, Sharing, and Solving or Selling. Major achievements in each step are as follows: First, in the Making step, the Seoul government had created a total of 122 video lectures as of 2022 and is operating the Seoul Policy Archive. As of May 2023, the Seoul government had joined 25 international organisations to share policies and establish a network.

As a result of these efforts, it was granted 80 international awards, 57 types in administration and policy fields, from 2006 to 2022. In the Sharing step, through the Seoul Policy Archive, the Seoul Government had provided information on 220 policies in 11 sectors in English as of September 2023. Seoul Urban Solution Agency has been running Korean and English websites, organised workshops and seminars for international organisation staff and policy-makers in foreign cities, and shared excellent policies through the media. From 2008 to 2022, through training programmes for government officials of foreign cities, Seoul Human Resource Development Center provided a total of 2,686 officials in 282 cities in 72 countries. They gave them an opportunity to learn Seoul’s urban policies and experience Korean culture. The University of Seoul initiated the Master of Urban Administration and Planning (MUAP) course which has trained 280 foreign city officials from 74 cities in 48 countries. Lastly, in the Solving or Selling step, the Seoul government had carried out 107 projects targeting 73 cities and organisations in 41 countries as of January 2023. By sector, transportation (33.6%) has the largest number of projects ordered and carried out, followed by railroad (21.5%) and e-government (18.7%). By country, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, and Myanmar, and by city Da Nang, Ulaanbaatar, Manila and Ho Chi Minh had the largest number of projects.

Despite the above-mentioned achievements, Seoul’s overseas expansion of the excellent policies resulted in many challenges, leading to frequent transfers and scaling down of organisations. Major problems are as follows: First, First, the Seoul government’s policies tend to focus on securing orders for ODA projects to facilitate the overseas expansion of private companies. As a result, the assessment criteria narrowed down to orders and types of ODA projects, and the size of ODA grants has continuously decreased. In addition, the project and policy assessment was heavily centred on economic factors; consequently, lowering the policy’s contribution to elevating the city’s stature on the global stage and acquiring global leadership. Secondly, the link between public, economic, and business diplomacy was relatively weak. This was primarily driven by separation of existing exchange efforts and the projects. Specifically speaking, among the Seoul’s sister and friendship cities only a small number of cities were included in the overseas expansion policy, and destinations of the Mayor’s visit were not matched with cities participating in the policy. Second, it turned out that the efforts to develop and promote excellent policies in each sector have not led to overseas expansion. As the projects were carried out as international organisations and central government ODA projects, they were less effective in promoting the Seoul government itself. Third, there was no integrated management and operation system for the projects. As the dedicated division of the Seoul government lacks the authority to manage and operate the projects in an integrated manner, different offices and bureaus of the city government and affiliated organisation have promoted the projects “independently” and the dedicated division has only managed Seoul Urban Solution Agency (SUSA).

To achieve changes in the policy environment, Seoul Metropolitan City should address problems that have been raised over the past several years and adjust its strategy and policies as follows: First, the title of the policy should be changed to “international development and cooperation” to ensure the achievement of the three goals, comprehensive promotion of projects in each step, and diversification of policy motivation. Second, to achieve the vision of the city government and ensure continuity of policies and projects, the policy goals should be addressing global city issues with joint efforts, promotion of sustainable balanced development, and enhancing the global leadership of Seoul in the light of development trends of city diplomacy and international development and cooperation motivation. Third, international development and cooperation projects should be categorised as follows: first, performing economic diplomacy to build political relationships. Political relationships with cities where excellent policies are exported (“accompanying cities”) should be created through ODA grants and serve as a political foundation for further city diplomacy. ODA grants should aim at eradicating poverty, improving quality of life and contributing to balanced development of the international community. Next, implementing policy public diplomacy and culture public diplomacy for sustainable development of the “accompanying cities”. Policy public diplomacy will provide education, training, scholarship, and degree programs for regional development and enhanced governance capability of developing countries, overcoming limitations of financial support of ODA grants. Culture diplomacy includes “Seoulology” humanities exchange project targeting residents of “accompanying cities” and invitation of local art groups to cultural events in Seoul. These projects are aimed at sharing Seoul’s experience and know-how in sustainable development. Third, devising and promoting a package of economic diplomacy (relationship building and ODA grants), public diplomacy (policy education, training, degree, scholarship, and humanities exchange), and business diplomacy (policy consulting and support for private businesses) to create a virtuous circle of exchange, promotion, and projects and improve their connection. Fourth, establishing a Seoul International Development and Cooperation Committee to create multi-layered governance and ensure integrated operation. In addition, the role of the Seoul International Cooperation Agency should be expanded to make sure it can fully fulfill its responsibility as a dedicated group for international development and cooperation. Also, the agency will manage research, education, and training of the University of Seoul, the Seoul Institute, and the Seoul Human Resource Development Center in an integrated manner.