Hope for a new cityA gigantic city with more than 1.5 million residents is set to be created within the vicinity of the capital. The latest bill on merging the cities of Seongnam, Gwangju and Hanam in Gyeonggi was approved by the Seongnam City Council on Friday. The new combined city, which covers an area 1.1 times larger than Seoul, will eventually outpace the cities of Daejeon and Gwangju in population and budget.
The voting on the bill’s passage caused ugly, violent physical scuffles among council members, some of whom even chained themselves to the chairman’s podium of the Seongnam City Council in an attempt to block the vote. A physical brawl also erupted between civic groups opposing the passage of the bill. The groups made no attempt at communication or negotiation, resorting instead to loud yelling and fist fighting.
Finally, Grand National Party council members passed the bill at dawn. It is just pathetic to see how much the city’s legislative council resembles the National Assembly in terms of the amount of physical violence used in the course of the legislative process. Calling ourselves an example of grassroots democracy while following in the path of the ugly political practices of the National Assembly shows no promise of success in anything. Democracy is based on the fundamental principle of majority decision and reflects the will of the people through a vote. Should the city force a set of policies on its citizens without considering the impact?
Although the bill was eventually passed, there are a lot of problems that remain to be solved. The name of the new city, for example, is likely to be a difficult question to debate. Another issue to be dealt with is finding ways to narrow the financial gap between the regions. Seongnam has the biggest budget among the local governments to be merged and Gwangju and Hanam fall far short of that. Gwangju has the 33rd largest budget in the nation while Hanam is 93rd.
The wide economic gap between regions and differences in culture and social overhead capital are major factors that spark conflict among residents. Careful consideration and persuasion are required. Worse yet, the opposition parties are seeking to file an injunction and even take the matter to court. It is quite worrisome that such moves could possibly escalate the existing conflict between the regions.
This must stop now. It is not too late for both the ruling and opposition parties to put their heads together to minimize the impact of the matter at hand. That is the least the lawmakers can do for the people they represent.
Since 1895, the three Gyeonggi cities have been rooted in what was originally Gwangju County during the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) period. Seongnam and Hanam were separated during the industrialization period and have now been consolidated again in the era of globalization.
Our capacity for large-scale construction and regional cooperation has made it possible to change the nature and shape of our cities. What we hope to see now is a future-oriented city capable of competing on a global scale.