Accountability in Government

Writing to the Mayor of Seoul can be a frustrating experience

A chronicle of correspondance with Lee Myung-Bak while he was Mayor of Seoul.

한국어 번역 - 클릭

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November 7th 2004 – our first letter to Mayor Lee about developments in Kahoi-Dong , written after months of frustrating contacts with officials at the Chongroguchung (You can see this letter here ). Receipt of this letter is acknowledged, but our concerns are never addressed nor are any of our questions answered.

December 3rd 2004 - A follow up to the November 7th letter, hoping for action. Unanswered.

July 6th 2005 – I arrange to meet Mayor Lee at the dinner for the Calligraphy Bienalle held in the Sejong Cultural Centre. We sit close to each other on the same table. I show him a copy of the article that had appeared a little earlier in the Joong Ang Ilbo which he reads very carefully – twice! I mention my November letter and the absence of a reply. He says he is aware of that letter and asks me if I have real concerns about what is happening in Kahoi Dong. I say I certainly do. He says he will study the matter. Nothing is heard thereafter.

July 11th 2005 – the original letter is re-sent to Mayor Lee via e-mail. Again, no reply. However the Mayor does acknowledge a previous e-mail message about the meeting at the Biennale and a subsequent e-mail following an article about him in the International Herald Tribune.

August XX 2005 – Over the telephone, a secretary in the Mayor's office is asked why we have had no replies. She tells us that replies were sent and at least one of these was sent via e-mail. We say we have not received them and ask her to provide copies. She refuses to do so.

November 3rd 2005 - I attended the mayor's meeting for foreign residents. Lee Myung Bak was only there briefly - he arrived late, read a short speech, and then departed, but not before we had shaken hands and exchanged a few friendly words of greeting. The proceedings were left to his deputies, led by Mr. Sangbum Kim, Director General of the Industry Bureau. At the Q&A, I raised the matter of Kahoi-Dong redevelopment in very strong terms. Sangbum Kim admitted there were some (unspecified) problems but affirmed the wish to protect the area and the provision of grants for restoration etc of hanoks. I told him that the grants were being misused - that the Chongroguchung only sanctioned release of the funds for demolition and so on. He said he knew nothing about this. I also told him I had written to Mayor Lee three times on this matter and never had a reply, and that I considered it unacceptable behaviour for public officials, who claim they wish to make Seoul attractive and welcoming to foreigners, to ignore letters from foreigners. I handed Mr. Kim copies of the original letter to Mayor Lee (both in English and Korean) and also the letter to President Roh. All this before many observers and witnesses. Nothing further is heard. It proved impossible to contact Mr. Kim again.

March 3rd 2006. Officials at City Hall tell my wife there is no record of receiving any documents or letters from us on any occasion. A new letter to Mayor Lee is delivered, which also goes unanswered.

David Kilburn

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