The villains of Yongin

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The villains of Yongin

The city council of Yongin, Gyeonggi, started a hearing on Monday to find out who is responsible for the debacle involving the Yongin Everline, a fully automated rapid transit system that has been suspended for months because of conflicts between the city government and the operator.

In the witness stand were two former mayors of the city and a former chairman of the city council. Yet none of them showed any sign of remorse during their testimony. All of them kept insisting that they were not responsible for the disaster, which cost citizens a whopping 728.7 billion won ($678 million) in taxpayer money and will likely demand additional funds because of local leaders’ short-sighted policies.

The former mayor who designed the project attempted to avoid his responsibility for the affair by shifting blame to the delay in construction of the Bundang subway line, which was scheduled to connect with the Yongin Everline. Another former mayor of the city responded to council members’ questions with somewhat provocative remarks, saying he only signed the documents presented to him. It is utterly shameful that politicians with such attitudes served as mayors.

The former chairman of the city council was no better, either. Asked what he had been doing until the crisis took place, he answered: “I didn’t expect the project would cost almost 1 trillion won.” What is the role of the city council anyway? Isn’t it keeping a close watch on how a city government spends taxpayer money? Yet Lee said, “We would have had no problem had our population increased as much as we predicted.” That indicates city councilmen were just rubber-stamping the government’s policies.

The transit system was supposed to open last July but since the number of expected passengers decreased to 30,000, from the original estimate of 140,000, the system was put on hold. The city government must compensate the Yongin Rapid Transit Co., the train operator, for a gargantuan financial loss amounting to 1.65 trillion won that can only be recovered by taxes over the next 30 years. The city government then announced it would operate the system on its own but it remains to be seen how it can solve the snowballing deficit.

The local council’s inability to oversee government waste will most likely place a colossal financial burden on area residents. Other local governments and city councils must learn a lesson from this, if they don’t want to follow in the ugly footprints of Yongin City.
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