An Awesome Work of Art -- and Mayor -- Serve the Public Good in Seoul

The Seoul capital area in South Korea is the third largest metropolitan area in the world and the second most dense after Paris. With a population of nearly 26 million people (10 million in the city), the voice of the public is important, yet hard to hear. Fortunately, Seoul Metropolitan Government (that has a really cool website too), led by mayor Park Won-soon, truly cares about what its citizens have to say.


To celebrate the opening of the new City Hall in 2012, the government commissioned artist Soo-in Yang to create a public work that would send a clear message: We listen. Yang, who believes that, nowadays, "public art cannot afford to be just an aesthetic object to look at but must have a strong social message and direct participatory engagement with the public", delivered.

The work, called Yobosayo (which is a Korean word used to start a conversation, similar to “Hello” or “Hey”), looks like a cross between a giant ear and a horn. It invites passersby to lean in and share their ideas about the city, as well as criticism or praise of the government. The recorded messages are then played in the City Hall building to other passing residents and officials. There is also a mechanism for "voting" messages up and down – the more people listen to a certain message, the more important it is labeled. Conversely, if no one wants to listen to a message, it is sent into a virtual recycle bin (a computer algorithm) where, together with other such messages, it's turned into a unique musical piece played inside a Sound Gallery.

 

You’re probably thinking that this all sounds pretty well-intentioned, but are also wondering whether it's making any difference. In a recent talk, mayor Park, who has had a thirty-year history as a social justice and human rights activist, said that he wants “to be the first mayor to truly change the lives of citizens”:

Hearing [out the people] is my everyday business. My ear is becoming bigger and bigger. I'm communicating with the citizens, [and] there are so many demands. On the spot, I'm asking my staff to resolve the complaint. Within one week their complaint has been resolved. Now, the people can easily communicate with me.

Public suggestions collected by Yobosayo and other government initiatives have resulted in several projects, including late-night buses that serve 2,000 passengers per day, safe zones for children, and parking spaces near small eateries to increase their sales. Park also noted that in the first six months since the project launched, the city was able to resolve 98 percent of the complaints reported to them.

As Dr. Eddie Dorotan, executive director of Galing Pook Foundation, said, the hope is that other cities and the national government will also take notice:  "Our only hope is the national government would listen because there are a lot of small initiatives in the local level that we can replicate."

Photos: Lifethings

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

7 fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Here are 7 often-overlooked World Heritage Sites, each with its own history.

Photo by Raunaq Patel on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites are locations of high value to humanity, either for their cultural, historical, or natural significance.
  • Some are even designated as World Heritage Sites because humans don't go there at all, while others have felt the effects of too much human influence.
  • These 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites each represent an overlooked or at-risk facet of humanity's collective cultural heritage.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less