Capacity to cope

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Capacity to cope

The office of Dangjin County in South Chungcheong Province changed the addresses of some 10,000 residents in an attempt to turn the county into a city.
County officials registered these people under the addresses of civil servants at the county office, and dozens of residents were registered as living in town halls, which are certainly not for residential purposes.
Dangjin County is well positioned to enjoy economic development. Hundreds of companies including Hyundai Steel are flocking to the area.
However, its administrative capacity and other environments were not deemed sufficient by the county office to attract business, so it tried to become a city.
The irregularities created by the Dangjin county office reveal underlying problems with Korea’s local administrative system. The current system has long stopped functioning properly for local development and efficient administration.
It hasn’t caught up with the changes that result from enhanced transportation, communications, information technology and globalization.
One of the problems is that residential areas and economic zones often don’t match, and there can be a significant amount of discord when measures for enlarging districts are carried out.
Another problems is that the borders between administrative areas often serve as borders for local development, a situation that lowers efficiency.
As economies grow, a single local government cannot implement all the affairs or projects underway.
Former national administrations made vague efforts to reform the local government administrative system. In the 1980s, academics and politicians raised the issue at the 17th National Assembly.
They formed a special committee for reform of the local administrative system. But no significant outcome was produced.
The debate focused on political interest, rather than measures to enhance competition in local areas.
The new administration and the next National Assembly must undertake reform of the administrative system.
They must also focus on boosting competition between local districts and the entire country.
The administration is pushing through its plan to restructure the entire country with five large economic zones and two special large economic zones.
But it is hard to expect good results from this restructuring unless the administrative system is reformed first.
In 2005, residents of Jeju Island passed a referendum and decided to make the entire island a large local autonomous entity.
This case set a good example: The administration and the political circle must draw a blueprint for reforms in the local administrative system and get a public consensus.
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