Back in May, news emerged that the city government in Seoul, capital of South Korea, had installed “women’s only” parking spaces. These spaces were reported to be longer and wider than standard spot, and were bordered by bubblegum-pink markings with a skirted stick figure in the middle. The internet, quite understandably, went nuts. Elle, for example, called it a “completely prejudiced project” and were particularly irate that a woman, the Assistant Mayor for family affairs Cho Eun-he, spearheaded the campaign.
Image: via Drive Spark.
Actually, though, it turns out they’ve been around since 2009 and were part of a £55m initiative to make the city more “women friendly”. The spaces were wider than the original spaces, but only by about 20cm. They’re also closer to shop doorways and better lit. Other lady-friendly tweaks made by the mayor’s office included installing lower handholds on public transport, 7000 new women’s toilets, and the introduction of spongy high-heel friendly pavement materials.
This isn’t the only eccentric scheme the city government has rolled out in the past few years - the current mayor, Park Won-soon, has been responsible for some particularly odd initiatives.
Here are a few:
The giant sign-holding little girl
Image: Seoul City Government
The city government has recently launched this “Citizens Billboard” so Seoulites can have their messages beamed out from a board clutched by a smiling, 13m tall girl. In the image above, the board promises “We will listen to any sound, no matter how small it is”. Residents text the board with their thoughts on various topics – at the suggestion of the recently re-elcted mayor, Park Woon-son, the first topic was “If I were the Seoul mayor...”
The giant ear
Image: Seoul City Government
This piece of art, loosely (very loosely) based on the human ear, was installed outside the new Seoul City Hall for locals to air their grievances into. The statue, designed by artist Yang Soo-in, records their complaints and broadcasts them from speakers in the Citizens Affairs Bureau. These speakers then use motion sensors to judge how many people sit listening to the complaint, and for how long. Unpopular complaints “compost into music”, according to a diagram released by city hall (please, someone, show us how that’s done), while popular ones are repeated and, one hopes, acted on.
The giant duck
Starting this week, a giant duck has moored up in Seoul's harbour in order to "spread a message of healing and peace" to the city's residents. The 54-foot tall model is the work of Florentijn Hofman, a Dutch artist, and has permission to stay for just over a month.
Seoul has double the population density of London, and resources and space are thin on the ground. Mayor Park Won-soon has responded by encouraging citizens to share commutes, flats, offices and, through apps Zipbob and Kiple, meals and childrens’ clothes. The city government introduced 736 shareable offices in the city and surrounding area that citizens can use as and when they want. The Sharing Bookshelf campaign encourages citizens to (yep, you guessed it) share books, and Sympathy under the Same Roof links up older people with spare rooms and young people in need of somewhere to stay.
These are individuals who have been nominated to “seek out Seoul’s many attractions and promote Seoul in colourful and interesting ways to the global community”. We don’t know what that means either. We just really like the name.