It’s good to talk

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It’s good to talk

The government and the ruling party have been attacking Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo as he challenges regulations on the metropolitan area.

Grand National Party Chairman Park Hee-tae recently said that some local government heads have been making extreme remarks and that the party is seriously considering measures to restrain or punish them.

This was aimed at Kim, who criticizes the Blue House daily. Kim has been upping the ante since last week, when he commented that even a communist regime would have more sensible policies for the metropolitan area.

It is understandable that the government and the ruling party are uncomfortable about Kim’s remarks. It is also true that Kim was deliberately provocative. But trying to gag Kim on the pretext of keeping party discipline is wrong.

It is natural for local government heads to resist when local interests and central government policies clash. This is also common in other countries. Former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, took on President George W. Bush and the Republican Party when he spent $15 million on stem cell research. The decision was made based on the biomedical industry’s support for Maryland.

Here, the government and the ruling party were responsible for overturning the president’s pledge to ease regulations in the metropolitan area. It would have been an even more serious problem if Kim had remained silent. The belief that all local government heads must obey decisions made by the Blue House and the ruling party is a legacy from the authoritarian era. This runs counter to the trend of introducing local autonomy and decentralizing power.

Are they suggesting we go back to the era of military rule, under which local government heads acted merely as low-level members of the ruling party?

It is ugly to watch a governor confront the central government and the ruling party. This never would have happened if the Blue House, the GNP and local governments had communicated well with one another.

Kim doesn’t need to resort to inflammatory rhetoric causing unnecessary conflict, but he must not be prevented from voicing his opinion.

Easing regulations in the metropolitan area is an important issue that should be debated more vigorously and more openly. That is the only way to improve communication within the ruling party and to strengthen the local autonomy system.
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