Ex-district head sued for causing costly by-election

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Ex-district head sued for causing costly by-election

Some 500 residents of Yangcheon District, western Seoul, have sued their former district office head and his former campaign rival for causing tomorrow’s by-election to fill the vacancy created by the head’s resignation after he was convicted of violating election laws.

According to the Seoul Southern District Court yesterday, the residents filed the lawsuit on Monday seeking 2.2 billion won ($1.9 million) in compensation from the two officials to cover the cost of the by-election, which the residents said was caused by smear campaigns in last year’s general election.

In the June 2010 general election, independent Lee Je-hak was elected the new district head, beating the Grand National Party’s Chu Jae-yeop.

Six months later, however, prosecutors indicted Lee for violating the Public Official Election Act. Prosecutors said that Lee spread fake rumors about Chu during the campaign in May 2010. At the time, Lee said that Chu tortured an innocent citizen in the mid-1980s, when Chu worked for the Defense Security Command, a military spy agency under the Ministry of National Defense.

In June, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that convicted Lee of spreading the false rumors. As a result, Lee was forced to resign as head of the Yangcheon District Office.

In Korea, local governments must pay for a by-election with their own funds.

It is not the first by-election for Yangcheon residents. In January 2007, former head Lee Hoon-gu resigned after he was charged with hiring a private tutor to sit for a test in his stead in 2005 to get a high school diploma, which he did not have.

The Yangcheon residents who filed the lawsuit claimed that Lee Je-hak should take responsibility for the vacancy, adding that Chu should also compensate the district even though he was defamed because he also conducted smear campaigns against Lee.

“The two former candidates in last year’s general election, Lee and Chu, made false accusations against each other and both of them caused the by-election,” said Kim Sun-hwan, leader of the group of residents. “They should pay for this by-election because they caused it.”

Chu and Lee are currently running in tomorrow’s by-election for Yangcheon District Office head.

“They are carrying out the same kind of smear campaign once again for this election, which tainted the reputations of the district’s 500,000 residents,” Kim said. “If they continue to have that kind of negative campaign, we will end up having another by-election.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]

`또 선거` 양천구민 화났다…22억 선거비 환수訴

구청장이 대리시험 또는 허위사실 유포 혐의 등으로 잇따라 낙마해 4년 동안 두번의 재보선을 치르게 된 양천구민이 전직 구청장 등을 상대로 선거비용 환수 소송을 냈다.

25일 양천구청장 재선거 비용환수운동본부에 따르면 이 단체는 지난 24일 서울남부지법에 구민 500명과 공동으로 이제학 전 양천구청장과 추재엽 양천구청장 선거 후보를 상대로 선거비용 22억원을 환수해 달라는 소송을 제기했다.

운동본부는 "이 전 구청장과 추 후보는 작년 지방선거에서 서로 비방하고 고소 고발을 하는 등 네거티브 선거로 일관해 재선거의 원인을 제공했다"며 "이로 인해 구민의 재산인 예산으로 또 선거를 치르게 됐다"고 주장했다.

운동본부는 "이번 선거에서도 여전히 네거티브 선거를 계속해 50만 구민의 명예를 훼손하고 있다"며 "지금처럼 양측이 네거티브 선거에 몰두한다면 선거를 또 치를지도 모른다"고 우려했다.

김순환 운동본부 대표는 "재선거의 직접적 책임자로서 이들은 공식 사과도 없이 정책 선거를 바라는 주민의 목소리를 여전히 외면하고 있다"며 "원칙과 신의를 무시한 채 권력 유지에만 골몰하는 후보들이 선거 비용을 책임져야 한다"고 말했다.

양천구에서는 2007년 1월 이훈구 전 구청장이 검정고시 대리시험 혐의로 기소된 뒤 사퇴해 같은해 4월 보궐선거에서 추 후보가 당선됐다.

이후 작년 지방선거에서 이제학 후보가 당선됐으나 추 후보에 대한 허위사실 유포 혐의로 지난 6월 형이 확정돼 구청장직을 상실했다.

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