Tyranny of Seoul’s city council

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Tyranny of Seoul’s city council

Democratic Party members, who hold a majority on Seoul’s city council, are causing controversy with their increasing abuses of power.

Twenty-four councilmen affiliated with the Democratic Party are pushing for a revision of a referendum ordinance to bar civilians from having the ability to reverse by referendum budget plans that Seoul city council passes. If it is put into law, there will be no mechanism to correct or scrap projects that are pushed ahead against the will and interest of Seoulites.

We are utterly dumbfounded that the city council is more or less attempting to dominate municipal governance, rather than keeping the city administration in check.

The motive behind the referendum revision seems obvious: It will rob Seoul citizens of the ability to collectively petition against the Democratic Party’s extension of the free school meal program. The city council rubber-stamped an ordinance in December to create a 69.5 billion won fund in the city budget for free school lunches for all students at elementary schools in Seoul.

The Democratic Party members of the city council went so far as to bypass a law strictly banning a budget increase without the endorsement of the head of a local government. They are seeking to change the referendum regulation at the same time that civilian groups are campaigning to put the blanket free school lunch plan to a public vote.

The Seoul city councilmen in question must be either foolish or blindly arrogant for concocting a scheme to bar referendums. The right to hold referendums is protected by the Local Autonomous Government Law and Referendum Law.

The national law allowing referendums stipulates which issues are exempted from residents’ votes. Therefore, a revision of the city ordinance would not be legal, nor would it be effective, as it would be an obvious violation of said laws. The Democratic Party’s leadership must stop their self-serving attempt to change the ordinance, before they make themselves into even bigger fools.

The citizens of Seoul did not hand them majority status on the city council in the last municipal election so they could abuse their power. They will pay dearly in the next election, if they continue to behave in such an arbitrary way.

The Democratic Party should also take into consideration that their latest move will pose a threat to the establishment of a mature grassroots democracy in Korea.
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