Cho Soon Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Governing a Global City; Conversation with Cho Soon, Mayor of Seoul; 4/25/96 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by L. Carper

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Background

Mayor Cho, welcome to Berkeley.

Hi.

What is it like to come back to the campus after so many years?

I am very much delighted to see the campus again. I have many fond memories of this campus. I spent four years here, between 1960 and 1964. It was a difficult period for the university and being a graduate student was very difficult for me, but at the same time it was exciting and I am full of recollections.

What particular sub-field did you work on in economics, doing your dissertation?

My dissertation had to do with public finance. The financing of economic development for the developing countries including Korea. I was interested very much in monetary theory as well as economic development, which was sort of the subject of the day in the early 1960s.

You were here during the time that we know as the Free Speech Movement, so you got a second education at Berkeley as an observer.

Oh yes, oh yes.

What was that like for you as a student from Korea?

Well, since the Free Speech Movement became famous all over the world, it was very well known among the Korean students, and the kind of songs that they sang were sung by the students in Korea when they engaged in their movement. The energy of the young people on various subjects ... Mr. Mario Savio at that time was particularly concerned about free speech and the Republican policy on Vietnam and so on and so forth.

Did you take back any lessons from the Free Speech Movement that prove useful today in your new work as the first democratically elected mayor?

Well I would not say that the Free Speech Movement in particular really has very much to do with my work as mayor, but my nine years in the United States made my way of thinking very much oriented toward democracy and freedom, liberty, and so on, so that my education at Berkeley left a very strong imprint in my thinking and behavior even today.

Once you left Berkeley, you started on an academic career. You were a professor and then a dean.

Oh yes, I taught economics in the field of monetary economics and economic development for 21 years at Seoul National University. I was Dean of the Social Science faculty for four years, between 1975 and 1979.

Some would say that it is harder governing a faculty than a big city. Do you agree with that?

Well, in some sense it is because each and every faculty member has his own claim and his own thinking, but I should suppose that being mayor is much more difficult than being dean.

Next page: Managing the Korean Economy

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