Seongdong-gu: Story of Happy People

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Our visit to Seongdong-gu District Council was a fascinating look into government operations in Seoul. This was an exciting opportunity to observe public relations and branding from the perspective of city officials. From the start, we were greeted and accommodated with the utmost kindness. Mayor Goh and his team arranged for us to conduct a round table discussion (thanks to Dr. Kim) and ask questions about policies and day to day operations. One of the first things that he stressed was that they used emotional connections with citizens to promote policies, budget issues, campaign information.

The main initiatives that the district is working on are centered around public safety for citizens. Following a round table discussion with the mayor, we were show the control center, CCTV, which has 1,000 televisions that show 128 artificial intelligence units thoroughout the district monitoring criminal activity and traffic violations. The purpose of the system is to provide support for police and protect citizens from criminal activity. Again, we were constantly reminded that the main function was for the people. It’s been a common thread in observing Korean culture that is very “we” versus “I” and the stress and financial support that is put towards the overall safety of the population as a whole is yet another collectivist trait of the society.

The public affairs office informed us that their main function was to promote policies for citizens. As an office with little over 1,000 employees, they publish two periodicals, newsletters and run a couple social media sites. This office was particularly interesting because their main medium for communicating to publics were newsletters. Customized newsletters were a good idea to reach publics and specialize news for readers. The newsletters were intended to promote citizen engagement by allowing citizens to pick what news they wanted to read about. The dynamic was intriguing because it was something that the staff was very proud of and seemed to believe successful and it made me think about how evolved the process of communicating has become. We were told that this was the main way that the district office communicated policies and events, however they used blogs and newsletters primarily for citizen engagement.

Overall, the office operates with the main objective being relationship building and engaging with citizens of the district. The public relations office supports initiatives by exercising two-way communication by promoting and then evaluating feedback from the newsletters and blogs. Social media sites are mainly used to provide responses to feedback. Again, they were very engaged. It was interesting to compare the dynamics of social media usage in Korea and the United States. Everything in the United States is centered around social media and this office did not emphasize that sentiment. Many interesting take aways from this district office and how they reach out to publics as compared to how the US does.

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