DP blocks vote on three-city merger

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DP blocks vote on three-city merger

The Democratic Party has blocked a plan to merge Seongnam, Gwangju, and Hanam cities in Gyeonggi into a single city and transform them into a metropolis.

On Monday, the National Assembly shelved a vote to approve the merger, despite the bill’s passage by the three city councils involved, after DP lawmakers refused to vote on the measure.

To begin the merger by July 1, the councils need the approval of the National Assembly’s Committee for Public Administration and Security. If the Assembly approves, the bill will create Korea’s fifth-largest city, after Seoul, Busan, Daegu and Incheon. The new metropolis would have a population of 1.53 million after the Pangyo New Town and bogeumjari public housing projects in Hanam are completed in the future.

But the DP refused to pass the bill, and the ruling Grand National Party gave in to pressure in order to pass a second bill to merge Changwon, Masan and Jinhae of South Gyeongsang. That merger plan had been submitted to the National Assembly last year.

The tri-city merger is now on hold, and the GNP said it will try to pass the bill again in April.

The DP’s opposition comes after the GNP last month unanimously supported the bill despite DP and Democratic Labor demands that the matter be decided by public vote rather than by members of the Seongnam City Council.

That council in January became the last of the three city councils to approve the plan, after opposition party members unsuccessfully tried to physically stop Council Chairman Kim Dae-jin from entering the council’s main hall. Since then, the opposition party members have criticized the way the plan was passed.

“The slipshod passage of the merger despite its failure to win the approval of the National Assembly is a clear wrong and cannot stand,” DP Deputy Spokesman Lee Jae-myung said.

The bill’s failure in the National Assembly baffled officials in Seongnam, Gwangju, and Hanam. Kim, the Seongnam Council chairman, said he was deeply disappointed by the delay.

“There were concerns whether the plan to consolidate Seongnam, Gwangju, and Hanam would fall apart,” said another official involved in the merger. “But because we haven’t heard anything from the Ministry of Public Administration and Security yet, our work will continue on schedule.”

By Chung Young-jin, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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