Gwacheon mayor survives nation’s third recall vote

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Gwacheon mayor survives nation’s third recall vote

An effort to recall the mayor of Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, fizzled out on Wednesday after just 17.8 percent of registered voters cast their ballots, failing to reach the minimum one-third voter turnout required by election law and invalidating the initiative.

Mayor Yeo In-kook, 55, whose duties were suspended on Oct. 27 when the recall was placed on the ballot, went back to work after the vote, but chastened by the effort, apologized to Gwacheon residents.

“All of the trouble was due to my inabilities,” he said.

The recall effort was organized by a group of Gwacheon residents upset with what they considered to be the mayor’s weak handling of the central government’s decision to move the Gwacheon Government Complex to Sejong City and with the mayor’s decision to designate a public housing site in the city, which they said drove down home prices in the area.

To call for a recall vote, organizers must collect signatures of more than 15 percent of registered voters in the jurisdiction in question and submit it to the election commission for verification.

Three recall votes have been held in the country since it was first introduced in July 2007 to discourage abuse of power and other wrongdoings by elected officials. But all three recall votes have all been nullified because of insufficient turnout.

In 2007, then-Mayor Kim Hwang-sik of Hanam, who is now prime minister, survived the country’s first recall vote when turnout was 31.3 percent. Then-Governor Kim Tae-hwan of Jeju was the target of the second recall vote in 2009, but just 11 percent of registered voters went to the polls.

The three failed recalls have led to criticism that recalls are too easy to place on the ballot, waste taxpayer money and cause unneeded conflict.

The recall vote in Hanam cost 270 million won ($239,000), 1.16 billion won in Jeju and 352 million won in Gwacheon.

“Governments should come up with measures such as requiring the party that called for a recall to cover part of the cost of the election,” said Song Tae-su, professor of public administration at Gachon University.

The country’s Recall Act also does not require a claim, allowing residents to call for a recall vote for any reason.


By Chung Young-jin, Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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