Power shift at local level leads to political clashPolitical clashes between the ruling Grand National Party and the opposition Democratic Party have erupted on the local government level following the swearing in of officials who were elected at the June 2 polls.
The local elections last month gave a landslide victory to the DP, which has vowed to stop projects proposed by the GNP.
A key test of the DP’s determination will come in Seoul, where the opposition secured a majority of the seats on the city council in spite of the razor-thin victory of Oh Se-hoon, the incumbent Seoul mayor from the GNP.
Oh is already under attack by the DP after he decided to appoint Choi Hang-do, the head of the Urban Competitiveness Headquarters of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, as the secretary general of the Seoul Metropolitan Council’s secretariat.
Oh made the appointment shortly before he was sworn in for a second term on Thursday. But DP council members complained that he did so without consulting them, which they said is required under laws governing local governments. The DP has 79 out of the 106 seats on the Seoul Metropolitan Council.
The DP council members demanded that Oh withdraw his “unilateral decision.”
The opposition said the appointment contradicted a pledge made by Oh during his inauguration speech on Thursday that he would be “a mayor of mutual understanding and integration.”
Kim Myeong-soo, a DP council member from Guro, said Oh “was repeating what he did in his previous term. He is ignoring the Seoul city council just as if the GNP still had the majority of seats. Does he really think he can actually communicate well with Seoul citizens to heal divisions when he’s being haughty with the council?”
The DP majority on the city council has vowed to block several of Oh’s pet projects, including the Han River Renaissance and Design Seoul program.
Kim Moon-soo, who was re-elected as Gyeonggi governor from the GNP, is also confronting a new opposition majority on the provincial council.
The DP council members want to review Kim’s proposed GTX (Great Train eXpress) plan, which would construct several high-speed rail links between Gyeonggi suburban areas to Seoul to relieve traffic congestion, because of its expense.
“We’ll review whether GTX is the best option to solve the traffic congestion and determine whether the province can come up with 13 trillion won [$10.6 billion] for implementing the plan,” said Ko Yeong-in, the DP head of the Gyeonggi Provincial Council.
DP commands 76 of the 131 seats on the Gyeonggi Provincial Council, with the GNP having 42 seats and minor opposition parties the rest. Ko said, however, the DP was willing to cooperate with Kim on policies that are deemed to benefit the interests of the middle class.
Gyeonggi council members from the GNP have vowed they will not sit idle if the DP members try to halt Kim’s projects.
“If DP council members attempt to prevent the Gyeonggi governor from trying to pursue what seems to be appropriate and reasonable projects, we will work together with the governor to counter their attempts,” said Chung Jae-young, head of the GNP Gyeonggi council members.
Local education systems were also roiled by disputes after the election of new education officials. A senior education official in Seoul resigned, saying he would not be able to implement policies by Kwak No-hyun, the new progressive head of the city’s school system.
By Kim Mi-ju, Lee Key-one [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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