Here and at your service
McKinney is enthusiastic as head of Seoul Global Center
By Agnes Yu
Jam-packed and fully-loaded, the Seoul Global Center can answer your prayers – maybe not all of them, but inquiries on living and working in the throbbing capital, yes.
Opened in 2008 as a city government initiative, the center provides practical help and support to international residents, handling roughly 400 cases on average per day either in person or over the phone.
The main office is located on the third floor of the Seoul Press Center. A visit in person will give you direct access to a wide variety of services including the extensive print material available such as brochures, booklets, maps, monthly magazines, and even a CD on living in Seoul, all at no cost. If not, the encompassing website, www.global.seoul.go.kr offers the latest news, an event calendar, job listings, language classes and transit information. Available in English, French, Japanese, Chinese, and of course, Korean, the site also has links to other relevant websites.
On May 1st, Steven McKinney was named the new head of the Seoul Global Center and its growing network, so far consisting of seven Village Centers and seven Migrant Centers. Each location caters to the unique characteristics of the particular neighborhood and aims to respond to the specific needs of the residents there. Since taking the leadership role McKinney has been busy getting around to all the locations, meeting everyone and making new contacts.
While the several support centers are customized, the main center offers comprehensive assistance for any foreign resident in the capital. There is a branch of the immigration office, driver’s license services, a counter for travel and tourism with staff trained in the applicable backgrounds, and four free Internet stations. There is even a mobile phone representative from LG U+ for subscription inquiries as well as someone from Woori Bank for your financial needs. Beyond this there are multi-lingual counselors and special advisors at slated times to consult on legal, labor, tax and real estate issues, and in the privacy of a conference room if need be.
Also to take advantage of are the many educational and exchange programs such as Korean Languages classes, living in Seoul orientation seminars, and a volunteer program. At one large Migrant Center, as many as 20 Korean language classes take place on Sundays. All for free except for the cost of the textbook.
In January 2012 the Yeouido Global Business Center was opened. McKinny said, here, ``We offer free, in-house incubation offices to selected small and medium businesses in order to facilitate foreign investment.’’ He continued, ``The center provides any foreigner who seeks to open a business in Seoul with extensive services such as consulting and business education seminars.’’ Visit global.seoul.go.kr/yeouido/biz.do for more information.
A second generation Korean from Berlin, Felix Park was selected for one of the offices at the Gangnam Global Business Center at COEX for six months from December 2011 to May 2012. Park runs an online gallery called Neo Edition (neoedition.com) to promote emerging Korean artists and to sell their limited edition prints.
He said, ``Before getting selected I had to apply with a business plan and do an interview. Although six months is a short time, overall, I had a great time there. I can definitely recommend the incubation program. I wish I had a chance to stay for another term, but there were too many applicants for the second half of this year.’’ A few days ago Park’s book "Berlin Art", a gallery guide in Korean about the Berlin art scene, was published by Jaewon Publishing.
Aside from getting to know other entrepreneurs, those selected for the program can use a fully equipped office with a PC, Internet, fax and copy machine, and printers. Plus a very supportive multilingual staff is on hand.
McKinney knows the benefits of this since he has been actively serving the business community in various roles. After arriving in the bustling metropolis in 1999 he started his own consulting company here in 2001 and in April 2007 he became an Honorary Citizen of Seoul. Established in 1958 the honorary citizen system was to commemorate foreigners and foreign heads of state that have rendered distinguished services to the city and set an example for Seoul’s citizens.
Before the end of this year, the center is moving to new facilities near Jonggak subway station. With the expansion, greater services and offerings are being planned for the new site.
As a proud Seoulite, McKinney is enthusiastic and sincere in his new role. He said, ``We welcome suggestions on how to improve the daily living conditions in Seoul so that we can play a proactive role in creating a more globalized environment in which you will be proud to call yourself a Seoulite!’’