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Seoul's new mayor vows to scale back on his predecessor's projects

By Jiyeon Lee, CNN
updated 6:12 AM EST, Wed November 9, 2011
Seoul's new Mayor Park Won-soon has vowed to invest in city welfare, allocating 30% of Seoul's budget to welfare projects.
Seoul's new Mayor Park Won-soon has vowed to invest in city welfare, allocating 30% of Seoul's budget to welfare projects.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Park says he is committed to allocating 30% of Seoul budget to welfare projects
  • The former human rights lawyer ran independently
  • However, he forged an alliance with opposition parties

Seoul (CNN) -- Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, whose recent landslide win against the ruling party sparked a public frenzy, vowed to invest heavily in city welfare and scale back on major projects put in place by his predecessor.

"I believe investing in welfare is an investment in the future and in people," Park told journalists Wednesday in Seoul. "I disagree with those who say welfare is a waste of money. It's a good means to creating new jobs."

Park said he is committed to allocating 30% of Seoul's budget to welfare projects.

The former human rights lawyer, who ran independently but forged an alliance with opposition parties, has become the symbol of reform and hope for a new wave of South Korean politics.

The mayoral elections were considered important in gauging the public sentiment ahead of presidential elections next year.

"I think this will become a turning point for Korean politics," Park said, adding that politics has not lived up to South Korea's economic success. "It has rather become the central point of conflict."

Park said the nation needs a "paradigm shift."

The mayor took office about two weeks ago, and has already signed off a hotly debated bill that would guarantee free lunches for all elementary school children. He also took on the central government for its efforts to ratify a free trade agreement with the U.S. that has created a deadlock in parliament.

A day after the Lee Myung-bak administration rebuffed Park's concerns on the U.S.-Korea trade deal, Park said the trade deal will have implications for Seoul citizens and will override laws put in place to protect the vulnerable.

The new mayor's critics have questioned whether Seoul will be sustainable with a heavy emphasis on welfare and without a new growth model.

But Park, who is well-known for being a civic activist, said large-scale city projects based on changing the physical appearance of the capital will provide the budget for increased welfare services.

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