Unilateral mayor

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Unilateral mayor


“Although we are members of the same political party, I cannot understand the unilateral policy announcement of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon,” Kim Mi-kyung, chairwoman of the urban planning committee of the Seoul Metropolitan City Council, said in her phone conversation with the JoongAng Ilbo. She was referring to the Seoul government’s announcement on Monday of a master development plan near the sports complex and the announcement on Tuesday about a housing policy for residents in their 20s and 30s.

“Both are massive projects, but Park had no sufficient discussion about them with the city council, controlled by the Minjoo Party of Korea,” Kim said, expressing her disappointment. In fact, the Minjoo Party holds a majority in the council — Minjoo Party members occupy 74 out of the 106 seats.

She also issued a press release that Mayor Park’s high-handedness has gone too far. Even officials of the Seoul city government disagreed with Park’s way of communication.

Mayor Park did not only trouble the city council this year but also caused disharmony with other local governments and the central government. In February, the city suddenly shut down the Jeongneungcheon overpass of the Naebu Expressway, citing safety reasons. But the city made no official request to the police for cooperation even on the day of the shutdown. The police, therefore, dispatched patrol cars and traffic cops on their own. “There was not enough time to come up with proper countermeasures,” a police official complained.
In March, the city government had a conflict with the Seocho District Office. After the JoongAng Ilbo reported on March 25 that the city and the National Police Agency decided to relocate part of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency to the site of the Firefighting Training Center in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, the district office issued a statement saying that it made clear that the plan had been turned down, but the city made the decision unilaterally.

The bigger problem is that there are more conflicts ahead. The city’s project to complete construction of a pedestrian park on the Seoul Station Overpass by next year requires prior consultation with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport under the Railroad Safety Act.

But no consultation has taken place so far, even though the city started construction five months ago. According to the city, it is not a problem to inform the ministry before starting the main stage of construction.

Political observers say Park’s series of unilateral actions are preparations for next year’s presidential election. As a presidential contender for the opposition party, he is acting unreasonably to produce some visible achievements before the election.

It is never easy for a Seoul mayor to push a major project without friction. But he must remember that the city council and district offices, which have expressed concerns about his actions, are representatives of Seoul residents, and they are also public institutions serving the public interest.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 28, Page 33

*The author is a metro news reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.

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