Seoul mayor looks to Los Angeles for emergency preparedness

Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, South Korea, visited Los Angeles to take cues from the city's emergency preparedness and woo filmmakers to shoot in Seoul.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Park Won-soon first visited Los Angeles many years ago as a young civic activist, visiting thrift stores and the L.A. Mission for ideas to take home to South Korea on bettering lives of the poor.

This weekend, Park once again journeyed to Los Angeles as the mayor of Seoul, this time looking to tap this city’s expertise on emergency preparedness. Recalling the April disaster in which a ferry sank off the country’s south coast, killing more than 300, Park said he wanted to take cues from Los Angeles to ensure his city of 10 million is better prepared to handle crises.

He said because of earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters facing the region, Los Angeles was well-positioned to serve as a guide for Seoul.


“Many mistakes and systematic problems were involved in that accident,” Park said in an interview. “As manager of this big metropolitan city, I’m really in charge. I feel a strong sense of responsibility.”

Park, who began his second term as mayor of South Korea’s capital in July and is often cited as a future presidential contender, visited Los Angeles’ emergency operations center, the Los Angeles Fire Department, Dodger Stadium and the site of Korean Air’s future downtown skyscraper to survey disaster plans.

Los Angeles was the last stop on the mayor’s whirlwind U.S. tour, which included the United Nations climate summit in New York, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.

In the Southland, Park met with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, with whom he discussed initiatives to increase trade and tourism between the cities. The two mayors will put finishing touches on a memorandum of understanding when Garcetti visits Seoul in November, Park said.

Park said he recommended Garcetti try staying at a Buddhist temple during his trip to Korea.

During his trip, Park said he was also meeting with Hollywood producers and directors to court them to film in Seoul, citing the shoot of the movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in the city this year. He said the city was in talks with filmmakers behind the next “Star Trek” movie to film there.


“We provided every convenience for them, blocking streets or districts in total,” Park said of the “Avengers” shoot.