Incomprehensible pay hikes

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Incomprehensible pay hikes

A hot debate took place in the National Assembly last June over whether to raise the subscription fee for KBS. The government’s attempt to raise the fees was thwarted by the logic that the increase would only exacerbate the financial burden on citizens.

Yesterday, the government announced its plan to raise railroad fares by about 3 percent starting next year: KTX fares from Seoul to Busan will go up by 400 won ($0.36), and the fare from Seoul to Daejeon by 100 won. Stressing that railroad fares have been frozen for the past four years, the government sought understanding from the public.

Fee increases are understandable, as they are sometimes necessary to raise state funds. But not all increases are alike. Local councils across the nation are keen to raise the salaries of their members starting next year. The North Gyeongsang Council, for instance, decided to raise councilmen’s yearly salary to 53 million won - a whopping 10.4 percent increase.

Songpa District Council in southern Seoul and South Cheonan City Council also plan to increase the salaries of their members to well over 40 million won, a 8.6 percent and 7 percent increase, respectively.

Among the 244 local councils in the nation, a quarter have already decided to boost member salaries. Yeosu City Council, in particular, is facing harsh criticism for its payment hike plan, which is being executed despite the fact that seven of 26 councilmen have been accused of corruption. We wonder if these councils really understand the excruciating pain that ordinary citizens have to endure at times of economic depression like this.

A surprising 87.3 percent of all local governments in the country have failed to attain financial independence and many of them are facing de facto bankruptcy as a result of countless projects to build glitzy city halls or launch other exhibitionist projects. Such a fiasco would be unimaginable if local councils had strictly monitored and scrutinized their executive bodies. Councilmen have frequently been caught for various types of corruption ranging from suspicious meddling to influence peddling. It is utterly shameful of them to protect their own interests at the expense of ordinary people.

If they are wise enough to understand their constituents’ pain, they must share it with them rather than take advantage of their privileges. Citizens will not forgive their unscrupulous behavior. If they dismiss the people’s fury, they will be judged with votes in the next election.
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