[EDITORIALS]Unbridled municipal chiefs

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[EDITORIALS]Unbridled municipal chiefs

Are our local governments working as they should? Two months before local elections we cannot help but raise such a fundamental question. First, many heads of provincial and local governments have been or might be indicted for felonies, including accepting bribes. Out of a total of 16 heads of provincial and metropolitan governments and 251 heads of local governments, 40 have received guilty verdicts, and 8 are either being investigated by law enforcement authorities or awaiting trial.

Prosecutors are investigating Woo Keun-min, the governor of Jeju province, for alleged sexual harassment. You Jong-keun, the governor of North Jeolla province, has been detained on a bribery charge. Choi Ki-sun, the mayor of Incheon, faces questioning by prosecutors. The Supreme Court remanded an innocence verdict for Lim Chang-yeul, the governor of Gyeonggi province. Moon Hi-gab, Daegu's mayor, is being investigated over illegal political funding.

Specialists in municipal affairs say municipal heads often are involved in illegal activities in the transfer or promotion of municipal officials (let alone accepting bribes from those who want various authorizations or licenses).

Local elections in June will select municipal heads for the third time since 1995. To reduce their proclivity to bribery in particular, we need to strengthen municipal councils to watch them more closely, redefine their jurisdictions, and fund local elections with public money. Municipal heads should not be allowed to draft and redraft their city's plans at their own discretion, which would lead to a sweeping change in the allocation of business interests.

Crimes by municipal heads begin with the high costs of election campaigns. Public funding for local elections would prevent such crimes. Referendums on major issues should be introduced at the local level so that the residents can participate more fully in governance. And residents should be able to check projects by municipal governments. A two-term limit can discourage local officials from lining up to corrupt municipal chiefs. But more important is a thorough awareness by public servants of the activities of municipal helmsmen.
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