Drawing the linesThe meeting between the president and the main opposition party leader was successful. The Blue House evaluated it by saying, “It couldn’t have been better,” and the Democratic Party said, “We reached meaningful agreements.” The ruling and the opposition party confirmed that they were partners and agreed on bipartisan cooperation over seven clauses.
The sixth clause is particularly noteworthy. It states, “The ruling and the opposition party must make bipartisan efforts to reorganize administrative units as soon as possible.” Despite the urgency of this task, the process is expected to be difficult. Historically, regional reorganization has failed despite decades of discussions and attempts.
Everybody agrees the two sides must take action. The current administrative units are antiquated; they were made during the 1894 Gapo Reform, even before a telephone was used here. The eight provinces in the country were drawn when the Joseon Dynasty was established. When delineating counties, the distance that one could travel with an oxcart in one day was used as a standard. Amazingly, such units have been preserved and used until the 21st century.
The 17th National Assembly has already formed a special committee for reorganization of administrative units and completed almost all of the required processes, including discussions, public hearings and visiting foreign countries. The special committee’s bill was confirmed in the National Assembly plenary session and submitted to the government. The government also drew its own bill for the job a long time ago, penned by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.
Despite endless discussions, the plan hasn’t been put into action because it is very complicated, even more difficult than revising the Constitution, some experts say. Nearly everybody’s political, economic and social interests are entangled in the job. Particularly, those who have to give up their privileges are expected to fiercely oppose the project.
Whether it’s the National Assembly’s bill or the government’s bill, the reorganization is aimed at simplifying the administrative system. That means the number of local government heads, lawmakers and civil workers will be reduced significantly. Therefore, those in the posts now or those who hope to take the posts naturally oppose reorganization.
Residents have their own interests. If several cities and counties are integrated into a metropolitan city, every city and county will want to have a new city hall. Meanwhile, when landfills are integrated into one, none will want to have it.
Some beneficiaries of reorganization may oppose the changes because they won’t provide tangible aid. Others will complain that they won’t receive as much assistance as other areas. This is why bipartisan cooperation is essential. The government must reconcile the people’s many voices as part of their task.