South Korea mayor says he wants 'smart cities' in the North

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea mayor says he wants 'smart cities' in the North
Busan mayor Oh Keo-don (R) has proposed inter-Korea projects to President Moon Jae-in. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The mayor of South Korea's second-largest city wants to bring North Korea into the 21st century.

Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don, a member of the country's ruling Democratic Party, is proposing a "North Korea development bank" and an inter-Korea "smart city" cooperation project, Seoul Pyongyang News reported Thursday.


Smart cities in Asia are being explored as different governments push for initiatives into artificial intelligence. Smart cities would allow states to test the latest AI and put driverless cars on the road.

Oh said Thursday he outlined his vision of Busan's future before an audience that included President Moon Jae-in.

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The mayor said his bold recommendations will work, because North Korea could "open to the outside world more rapidly than expected," according to SP News.

In preparation for historic breakthroughs in North Korean reform, South Korea needs to "prepare a system that can provide stable funding for North Korea's infrastructure development," Oh said.

Oh said his concept of a North Korea development bank would require multilateral cooperation through a stable banking system that involves collaboration with institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

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The mayor said if the bank is headquartered in Busan, global financial institutions and human capital will move into the city to prepare for an "era of peace on the peninsula."

Oh added during a recent visit to North Korea, North Koreans expressed deep interest in building an AI-driven smart city; the lack of infrastructure in the North could ultimately boost smart city construction, he said.

Progressive outlooks on inter-Korea cooperation come at a time when politicians in the United States and South Korea remain wary of Kim Jong Un's intentions on denuclearization.

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Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Voice of America Wednesday he discussed the "pitfalls" of negotiating with Kim during a meeting with visiting South Korean lawmakers.

"We in general talked about North Korea, the pitfalls that I believe there are in negotiating with [Kim Jong Un], we talked about the alliance between the U.S. and Korea," he said.

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