[EDITORIALS]Historic vote on Jeju

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[EDITORIALS]Historic vote on Jeju

Today a very meaningful vote is taking place on Jeju Island. With a law making it possible for citizens to vote on local and provincial issues having been passed last July, Jeju residents are asked to vote on the reorganization of the province’s administrative structure, something that has never been subject to a referendum since Korea regained its independence. Let’s hope the citizens of Jeju exercise their right of self-governance and make a wise judgment.
They have two alternatives. One is to maintain the current administrative structure, divided into province, city and county; the other is to consolidate the island’s four cities or counties into two administrative units, while the governor appoints mayors and magistrates of counties (called the “revolutionary proposition”). The voters’ decision will be incorporated into a special law this year, turning Jeju Island into an autonomous, self governed province, with elections to be held next year. If the revolutionary proposition is selected, the authority of cities and counties will be consolidated into one large, autonomous province.
Nevertheless, this important vote has failed to attract the citizens’ interest. Civil servants of the current local administrative units, fearing the loss of their positions if the revolutionary proposition is chosen, have not actively informed the public about the referendum. Thus, worries about low voter turnout and the aftermath of the divisions among the populace are justified.
There are merits and demerits in both proposals. Keeping the current administrative structure would let local governments maintain continuity while pursuing business projects tailored to local needs. But this is costly, and relatively inefficient. The revolutionary proposition can drastically reduce administrative costs, but scrapping local governance could give rise to arguments that the citizens’ rights to participate in government have been violated.
The government’s plan to turn Jeju province into a special autonomous district is an attempt to make developments possible that are suited to the province. The population of Jeju is comparable to that of a single district in Seoul. Nevertheless, one has to ask whether dividing such an administrative unit into four cities and counties, and maintaining the administrative structure that follows, is helpful. It falls to the citizens to decide this. Civil servants’ interests should not influence their judgment.
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