Local councils bicker, haggle, but do no work

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Local councils bicker, haggle, but do no work

Although three weeks have passed since newly elected local representatives took office, many city and district councils are still not functioning. Due to open hostilities between ruling party members and oppositionists, many councils haven’t even chosen their chairman, vice chairman or standing committee chairman.

On Thursday morning, only secretaries were at their desks at the Seongnam City Council. The council members are deadlocked over who should lead the council, and its members were nowhere to be seen. A source at the Seongnam City Council said, “As we didn’t yet elect the leaders [chairman, vice chairman and standing committee chair], we don’t even have a date for a council meeting.”

Dong district council in Daejeon convened an extraordinary session Wednesday, but it ground to a halt in 20 minutes due to severe conflict among members over its leadership. The council tried to elect leaders once before on July 13, but failed.

“Some council members conspired to fill all the leadership positions with their own party members,” said Ryu Taek-ho, the temporary council chair. “If the suspicions over this issue are not resolved, it is difficult to expect the council to function properly anytime soon.”

According to the JoongAng Ilbo, Gwangjin, Yeongdeungpo and Songpa district councils in Seoul are still arguing over who should be their leaders. Seongnam and Pyeongtaek city councils in Gyeonggi province, Chuncheon city council in Gangwon province and Dong district council in Daejeon are at the same impasse.

As a result, the councils are not doing their job of cooperating with the executive offices in carrying out policies as well as monitoring them. The councils are supposed to evaluate the previous council’s performance and establish plans for the second half of the year, but they’re doing nothing.

The situation is worse in Seongnam. After Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung declared a moratorium on the repayment of 520 billion won ($429 million) in debt for a City Hall complex built by his predecessor, it is urgent for the city council to inspect the city office’s financial situation. However, the council hasn’t even begun to deal with the issue.

“It’s so frustrating that the city council members are always fighting among themselves and can’t even elect their leaders when urgent problems are piling up,” said Lee Duk-su, the head of Seongnam Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. “As the council members were elected by the Seongnam citizens, they should quickly reach an agreement and get down to business.”

By Chung Young-jin [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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