Changwon consolidation approved

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Changwon consolidation approved

The National Assembly yesterday approved the consolidation of Masan, Changwon and Jinhae in South Gyeongsang to create a new megalopolis - the largest provincial municipality in the nation with a population of 1.08 million.

The bill to merge the three into the city of Changwon was approved by a 124-to-60 vote. Of the 202 lawmakers who attended the voting, 18 abstained. It was the first time the National Assembly approved the consolidation of local autonomous governments.

A new mayor to head the consolidated city will be elected in June, and a new Changwon city government will officially launch in July. Changwon will still be under the authority of the South Gyeongsang provincial government.

The current mayor of Changwon yesterday made public his ambition to run in the June elections to head the consolidated city.

“As one of the mayors who have pushed forward the merger, I believe I have the responsibility to develop the consolidated city into a world-class city,” said Mayor Park Wan-su.

Although public servants who wish to run for the local elections must step down from their posts by tomorrow, Park said he will keep his post until April 1 because the new law governing the consolidated city allows mayors to keep their jobs until an appropriate time for a smooth merger.

The local legislative councils of the three cities approved the merger plan in December and preparations for the consolidation, including the decision to name the city Changwon, have been underway since then.

The new city is expected to have a combined population of 1.08 million. As of now, Gyeonggi’s Suwon is the largest provincial city, with 1.06 million residents, followed by Seongnam with 940,000 residents.

The newly consolidated city will occupy 743.48 square kilometers (183,718 acres) with a 2.2 trillion won ($1.9 billion) budget and 3,792 public servants. Its gross regional domestic product is expected to be 21.8 trillion won, larger than the metropolitan cities of Gwangju and Daejeon.

With the National Assembly’s approval of the merger, the central government will also provide financial and administrative support to Changwon. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security has said the consolidation will save the cities 762 billion won over the next decade. The new city will also receive 236.9 billion won in incentives from the central government, and the ministry estimated that the merger will create more than 13,500 jobs.

As a part of its administrative reform drive, the Lee Myung-bak administration has promised to support the consolidated city as the hub of the nation’s southeast by promoting the special identities of each city. Changwon is known for manufacturing; Masan for cultural and service industries; and Jinhae’s key industries are shipbuilding and harbor transportation.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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