While many expats love Seoul and Korea, they also note there are many improvements that need to be made if Seoul wants to be a global city.
Traffic and road etiquette is one of the improvements expats said is required.
Karim Khouider said people speed, drivers do not give way to pedestrians, the traffic is awful, and the police do not enforce the road rules.
“Police are useless and don’t fine people enough. In France, people are afraid when they see a police car and drive well. Here they seem to be laughing at police and just drive as usual.”
Annabelle Ambrose said that imposing a fee each time a car enters the main areas of Seoul would help reduce congestion.
“London’s congestion charge has worked well and schemes like the Boris bike make getting around London cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly,” Ambrose said.
“There isn’t currently the infrastructure in place to support cyclists. Fewer cars mean they might actually be able to make and enforce dedicated cycle lanes.”
Expats state the prevalence of quality English communication among Koreans is also a major obstacle to transforming Seoul into a global city.
Kate Howell said communication issues could be overcome with creating a bilingual culture.
“Just as Lee Myung-bak once wanted to do, make Seoul bilingual. Fine businesses who are not accessible because of language.”
“Fine taxi drivers who refuse to pick up non-Koreans,” she said.
Others agree with Kate but also would like free Korean lessons for foreigners which some believe would assist bridge xenophobia, the language divide, and cultural exclusiveness.
Many foreigners also said that Seoul needs to provide a solution for its growing trash problem.
Bryan Betz said it is embarrassing for Seoulites that there are few bins and the average person lacks concern for maintaining a pleasing aesthetic on the street.
“It’s a necessary and proper public good. Litter prevention, proper sanitation, and pollution alleviation are all easy sells, especially to a citizenry with such a large eco-footprint. It fosters a careless attitude, which permeates to other areas of civic life,” Betz said.
However, the most prevalent concern raised by expats in South Korea is the lack of discrimination laws.
“The problem is that there is no law to protect people against discrimination. Not just racism but sexism and discrimination against older people,” Sean Jones said.
Jones was refused a teaching job late last year because he was black.
“They actually want a white teacher,” the recruiter said in a text message to Jones.
The results of a Seoul Metropolitan Government survey, released Monday, show that 40.1 percent of the 700 migrant workers indicate they have been a victim of discrimination in Seoul.
“Based on the survey results, we will push for more realistic support measures for expats in an effort to help them better adjust and not be discriminated against,” the municipality said.
Almost half of these respondents also encountered language and communication issues in Seoul.
David Kilburn said that being a global city may sound great but he questions whether Seoul is truly ready.
“There are significant downsides which, for example, London is finding it hard to come to terms with. I wonder how Seoul would welcome the legal influx of residents – rich and poor – from all over the world, and a judicial system where non-Koreans are not disadvantaged?”
The Mayor of Seoul will attend an open floor town hall meeting from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on March 6 on the 9th floor of the Seoul Global Center Building near Jonggak Station.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government welcomes expats interested in discussing “policies to make Seoul a global city.”
For more information, call (02) 2075-4180.
To register click here.