SEOUL — U.S. servicemembers, civilians and other expatriates living in Seoul will have an opportunity next week to suggest how to make the city a better place to live and work.

The Seoul Town Meeting, which gives city residents direct access to city officials and foreign community leaders, is to be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 3 in City Hall. The meeting is intended to introduce new ideas and review initiatives begun after previous meetings, city officials said.

This year’s session is to focus on the city’s public transportation system and medical services for foreigners. Officials are to discuss Seoul’s waste management and garbage systems and introduce the new Seoul Help Center for Foreigners.

“Foreigners face various challenges while living here but they don’t have enough channels to make complaints or suggestions. The town meeting is aimed at providing information on matters that are important for life here,” Yoo Mi-ok, of the Help Center, told the Korea Times.

Hundreds of personnel assigned to U.S. bases in the Seoul area live on the economy; adjusting to Korean living conditions and figuring out city services can be a challenge.

Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak is scheduled to be at the meeting, officials said.

The town meeting, first held in 2000, already has resulted in several improvements, city officials said. Among them: adding English to all road and subway signs and installing more elevators and escalators in subway stations. Taxis now also have a free phone interpretation service for English-speaking riders.

Visit for more information on the meeting.

In a related move, South Korean health officials will designate 17 Seoul hospitals as “foreigner friendly.” Medical and administrative staff will be trained to work with foreign patients, officials said. The move could benefit U.S. civilians in South Korea, as some medical services — such as elective dental procedures — are offered on U.S. bases only on a space-available basis.

The South Korean initiative will provide free language courses for hospital staff members and recruit volunteers who would help translate for doctors and patients.

Eventually, officials said, the plan could include provisions for granting foreigners in South Korea some benefits under the nation’s health care system.

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