By Kim Tae-jong
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has opened up a new one-stop service center to provide help to foreign nationals.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said Wednesday that the launch of the center will make Seoul a “truly global city.”
“Seoul aims to become an attractive city for foreign nationals so that they come here, invest here and enjoy touring here,” Oh said during the opening ceremony of the Seoul Global Center. “I was skeptical about us truly living up to expectations. Now, I hope the center will serve as a steppingstone to that goal.”
Named the Seoul Global Center, it began initial services on Jan. 2 before its official launch on Jan. 15. The ceremony was held to celebrate its successful launch with distinguished guests present including ambassadors, politicians and representatives of the foreign community.
The center was set up as part of efforts to develop Seoul into a global city favorable to foreign visitors and residents after the city government announced “Plans for the Globalization of Seoul” last July.
The initial goal of the center is to improve the business, residential, cultural and tourism environments for all foreign nationals, which can lead to the globalization of Seoul, Oh said.
Guests at the ceremony included popular television panelists from KBS’s “Beauties Chatter Box,” a talk show featuring young foreign women sharing their experiences of living in Korea.
“I’m happy that the center offers practical help such as issues concerning immigration and visas,” Akiba Rie from Japan said. “Simple things can be sometimes hard here like buying a mobile phone or getting a credit card. I hope the center can help us on such issues.”
The center is located on the third floor of the Korea Press Center in Kwanghwamun (hotline number ― 02-1688-0120 ― and Web site address ― http://global.seoul.go.kr) and has taken over the services offered by the Seoul Help Center for Foreigners located in City Hall.
Alan Timblick has been appointed as the inaugural chief of the center as the city government set a high value on his lengthy experience in Seoul while working for Barclays Bank Seoul Branch, Korea Master Card, the British Chamber of Commerce in Korea and Invest Korea operated by KOTRA.
“We’ll offer a whole range of services for foreign residents at the center. The intention of this center is to make life comfortable, content and fulfilling for all foreign residents in this beautiful city,” Timblick said.
The Seoul Global Center offers seven main services ― business; administrative; education and culture; support for every day life; medical referral services; support programs for foreign workers and immigrants; and online employment support.
In addition to the center, the city government will run Global Village Centers in some of its districts where foreign nationals are concentrated to provide programs to support community activities.
They will be located in Yeoksam-dong, Yeonnam-dong, Hannam-dong, Itaewon-dong, Ichon-dong, and Seorae Village. The centers in Yeonnam-dong and Yeoksam-dong are currently in operation.