Post-election, it’s a DP-controlled council vs. City Hall
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon secured a second term by a razor-thin margin, but he’s going to have trouble pushing through mega projects such as the Han River Renaissance Project because the city council, which controls the purse strings, is now dominated by opposition Democratic Party members.
The DP won a landslide of 79 out of 106 seats in the Seoul Metropolitan Council in the June 2 local elections, and political analysts said opposition politicians are mostly against Oh’s projects. In the last four years, Oh had no trouble getting budgets passed because the Grand National Party won 96 city council seats in the 2006 local elections.
“Seoul residents show more interest in jobs, residences and education, and we plan to drastically cut budgets used for projects such as the Han River Renaissance and Design Capital Seoul, which we deem to be focused on just polishing the surface of Seoul,” an official with the DP said.
The Seoul Metropolitan Council reviews and approves 24 trillion won ($19.9 billion) of the city government’s annual budget, and there’s a likelihood that some of the money for Oh’s projects will be delayed for approval, slashed, or rejected and used for the DP’s priorities, such as free lunches in elementary schools, according to analysts and Seoul city government officials.
“The city government has the right to allot budgets, but the council effectively controls them as they review and approve bills,” said Jang Kyeong-hwan, a senior management official with the Seoul city government.
The city government this year allotted 363.9 billion won for the Han River Renaissance, Design Seoul, overseas promotions and other projects, and the government believes it needs 600 billion won for those projects next year. The budget for this year was approved a few months ago.
During the campaign, the DP and its candidate for mayor, Han Myeong-sook, made clear their opposition to Oh’s pet projects and argued that the city’s debts have snowballed from 6 trillion won to 18 trillion won under Oh’s leadership because of them.
Han said Oh spent only 350 billion won for public education during his term and slashing budgets used for “lavish projects” would leave enough money to give free lunches in schools.
Meanwhile, political observers are also wondering how Oh will work with the 25 newly elected district office heads under the city government, as 20 are backed by the DP.
“Mayor Oh didn’t show up for meetings for district office heads even once,” another DP official said. “In his new term, the meetings should be refined in a new position.”
The district office heads meet to discuss issues ranging from registration taxes for cars or apartments and remapping routes for buses.
By Kim Mi-ju, Chang Chung-hoon [email@example.com]