Who’s paying for all the bragging banners?

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Who’s paying for all the bragging banners?

Six banners hung side by side and billowed off of the Yuseong District Office in Daejeon, South Chungcheong, last Wednesday.

The banners bragged about the achievements of the town, proclaiming it as the “Most-established Green City,” and the city with the “Best Sewage System.”

These banners, each measuring 10 meters in height, are considered “supersized” and each one costs about 400,000 won ($347) to 500,000 won to make.

They all boldly stated the achievements of the district office and the chief, but no banners informed the residents of policy changes or new policies. Not to mention hanging promotional banners on the outer walls of a building is illegal in Korea.

As the year comes to an end, cities across the county are blighted with banners desperately trying to promote their authors’ achievements and successes.

Usually, the end of a year is filled with award ceremonies for government offices and public institutions. For heads of local governments, especially, nothing makes them more proud than the awards they receive during this time. Therefore, their major concern becomes boasting about what they have accomplished as loud as possible - but the price is nothing to crow about.

Government officials also want to ingratiate themselves with the chief of the district office, so they put up a banner to praise the work that earned the district office an award.

Meanwhile, Daejeon’s Western District Office took down 16 similar banners from the side of its building last week.

The banners had been up for three months since October, but upon hearing of a coming visit by the JoongAng Ilbo’s reporting team, they hastily took them down.

However, an official from the district office explained that they “decided to take them down as it’s been a while since they were hung up.”

To put up one banner it costs at least 500,000 won, as additional money is needed for installation. The Western District Office spent about 8 million won to produce and install 16 banners, which were bought with tax money from the public.

The banners were all about being the best in several assessments, such as welfare policy or forest management. None of them were informative to the residents.

As district offices are busy bragging about their achievements, they are involved in an illegal act of hanging up promotional banners on the outer walls of a building.

Depending on size, the fine for an illegal banner can cost up to 750,000 won. An official from the Western District Office who wished to remain anonymous said, “If we’re fined, we’ll have to pay 12 million won according to the law.”

Residents of the western district in Daejeon are also criticizing such extravagant use of public tax, arguing that “the 8 million won the district office spent on putting up the banners, could easily be used to purchase at least 200 20-kilogram bags of rice for hungry neighbors.”

“Banners that inform residents of important things such as upcoming elections or policy changes are necessary,” said Moon Chang-gi, secretary general of the Daejeon Autonomous Participating People’s Coalition.

“Money that gets spent on unnecessary banners should be used somewhere more meaningful, such as helping the needy.”

By Yoo Ji-ho, Shin Jin-ho [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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