Conflict plagues Changwon council

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Conflict plagues Changwon council

CHANGWON, South Gyeongsang - Conflict has arisen in the unified Changwon city government, composed of Changwon, Masan and Jinhae, over where to locate the unified city government’s office.

On July 1, 2010, the unified Changwon city government was established with the goal of seeking balanced development between the three cities.

The members of the three city councils tentatively agreed at the time to build the new city government office in either Masan or Jinhae while naming the unified city Changwon.

City council members from each region, however, have held tense council meetings ever since, as each region wanted the new city government office.

The issue reached its peak when they argued over where the NC Dinos’ 25,000-seat, brand-new baseball stadium should be located.

The Changwon City Council is composed of 55 members - 21 each from Changwon and Masan, and 13 from Jinhae. On Tuesday, the Changwon City Council passed a bill designating Changwon as the city to host the city government’s office in a surprise move at its 27th general meeting.

Bae Jong-chun, chairman of the council, approached the chairman’s seat after tussling with Masan council members who occupied the space to block the bill from getting approved, then slapped the desk with his bare hand instead of using a gavel, declaring the bill approved.

Masan members claimed that the approval was invalid because the session was adjourned, and the chairman had not officially declared the meeting resumed.

Prior to the surprise move, the city council also passed a bill separating Masan from the unified city. A total of 52 members cast ballots among the 55 city council members, and 42 of them voted for the bill. The bill will be submitted to the National Assembly, where it has to be approved before the separation goes into effect.

The Masan members, however, didn’t want the city council to make a decision about the city government office building until the relevant regulations over the separation plan were approved by the National Assembly.

“Since the unified city government was established, most administrative work and economic policies have only favored Changwon to the detriment of the citizens of Masan,” said Hwang Il-doo, member of the Masan city council.

“The purpose of the unified council was to seek balanced development between the three regions, but such a goal doesn’t exist anymore, thus we decided to propose the [separation] plan.”

Since the unified city government was established, members from Jinhae had been the crucial swing votes on many issues.

After the NC Dinos’ new baseball park was designated for Jinhae, Masan felt even more isolated.

Since the 1990s, a large number of people from Masan have moved to Changwon and other nearby cities as they have better commercial opportunities, while Masan lagged behind.

“They established the unified government in order to seek mutual benefits, but they never settled disputes by mutual concession,” said Choi Chung-kyung, chairman of the Changwon Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Those city council members just rushed to establish the unified government even without informing their citizens about such a plan,” an official from the South Gyeongsang Provincial Government said. “They must consider that such merging and separating of an administrative district is like children thinking they can do whatever they want.”


By Hwang Sun-yoon, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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