Local officials dump rivals, hire loyalists

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Local officials dump rivals, hire loyalists

As the saying goes, to the winners go the spoils. The victors of the June 2 local elections are now in office, and they’re clearing out their predecessors’ staffs and rewarding their own loyalists.

As soon as independent Kim Du-kwan was inaugurated governor of South Gyeongsang, a long-standing stronghold of the ruling Grand National Party, he forced leaders of 14 affiliated organizations to resign.

“Since it is a new start for the South Gyeongsang provincial office, I think it is necessary to re-evaluate the sitting officials and fill those positions with the most competent people,” Kim said.

Many who were forced to resign were far from serving out their terms, with 11 months to two years of their terms remaining.

“Our terms are determined and guaranteed by articles of association, and we were hired after competing against many other candidates,” said an official who was forced to resign. “I think it is absolutely wrong to force top officials to resign just because a new governor comes into office.”

Goh Jae-Deuk, Seongdong District chief, has replaced 100 people in his first week in office.

According to a source at the district office, those who were replaced were close supporters of the previous district chief from the GNP and were moved to unimportant positions.

Then comes the paybacks.

Woo Keun-min, governor of Jeju, appointed the manager of his election campaign as mayor of Jeju and his spokesperson as mayor of Seogwipo.

Song Young-gil, mayor of Incheon, also replaced two key officers with people from his election campaign the day after his inauguration.

Song criticized politically motivated personnel appointments by the GNP three months ago.

“The Lee Myung-bak regime is abusing power by intentionally filling the majority of positions with Grand National Party members,” said Song at the National Assembly in April.

Opposition party office holders in South Chungcheong, South Gyeongsang and Incheon, are planning to establish various committees and fill them with their supporters.

There is a plan, for example, to establish a committee to investigate the four rivers project.

The phenomenon is also apparent in places where new educational superintendents took office.

Jang Man-chai, educational superintendent of South Jeolla, gave a key position to an official from Sunchon University, where he was the president before running for office.

“If the problem of appointing personnel to pay personal debts, to reward people, or to take a revenge on the ruling party continues, it will seriously threaten the entire local government system,” said Park Jae-uk, a professor of politics at Silla University.

“In order to maintain stability and to increase efficiency of administration,” he said, “ organizational restructuring is more important and necessary than personnel replacement.”

By Yang Seong-cheol [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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