A party in local government

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A party in local government

The opposition Democratic Party has released its outline for expanding the committee that supports local government offices. However, the plan contains some ideas that could seriously undermine the autonomy of local governments. DP Chairman Chung Se-kyun, in a workshop for mayors and governors elected via the June 2 elections, said the party plans to upgrade and expand the committee. The committee would allow local governments and the party headquarters to maintain a close connection, collaborate on policies and cooperate in securing funds, Chung said.

The central government has many resources at its disposal for aiding local governments as they pursue new policies and projects. The National Assembly, which is responsible for approving the central government’s budgets and legislation, plays a big role in shaping what local governments can do, especially considering the latter’s dependence on the central government for financing.

But the DP’s proposal seems like an attempt to control the local government heads that they nominated. A recent comment Chung made in an interview implies that the party wants to enhance its role in local governance after it clashed with the South Jeolla governor over his support for the central government’s four rivers project, which the party vehemently opposes.

In the interview, Chung said it is not right for the party to pressure or control local governments, “But a political party must be responsible. A person nominated by a certain party should be loyal to the party’s policy lines.”

He was sending a message to other local government heads that the party headquarters plan to keep their hands firmly in local government affairs. “If the Democratic Party operates a competent local government well, that would be the way of the ideal local government committee.” But it is up to the local governments to conduct their affairs on their own, without the assistance of a political party based in Seoul.

The local autonomy system was introduced to help the regions govern according to their needs. If the central government or a particular party were to direct local affairs, there would be no need to spend public resources on elections. If a political party wields control without any regard for local residents and the particularities of a given region, it will end up undermining regional development, divide the national consensus and generate inefficiency in government as a whole. Political parties should limit their role and stop competing with local governments over who can provide a better quality of life for local residents. A party should limit itself to gathering opinions and ideas from local governments and offering them its support.

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