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Monitoring Localities Through Citizens’ Power

Posted August. 22, 2002 22:19,   


Citizens themselves realized the real meaning of “self-administration.”

704 residents of Hannam City, Kyunggi Province, succeeded in introducing a special auditing after a long, repeated request for “residents’ auditing.” They have demanded the auditing in order to investigate the corruption scandals regarding the establishment and operation of City Development Corporation (CDC) of Hannam City.

On August 22, 2002, Kyunggi Province government announced, “We will conduct a special auditing, upon the request of the residents, of the CDC.” The Province is supposed to wrap up the auditing within 60 days and post its results in the gazette.

The “Residents Auditing” system is provided in the Act of Self Administration of Localities enacted in March of 2000. Under the system, a certain percent of residents can file a request with a higher administrative organization for reviewing of an administrative decision considered unreasonable.

▽ Suspicion = In August of 2000, Hannam City established the CDC and relegated to it the power to monitor and regulate the development project of Shinjang Area 2 named after the administrative district “Shinjang Dong,” 1,108,899 m2 in area (1,607 households in total).

In addition, Company W had bought a huge chunk of land in this area starting one year prior to CDC’s establishment. Some suspect that W was tipped off in advance about the policy under which a company owning the largest area of land was to be selected as the developer of the project.

It has also transpired that Company W did not pay any taxes on selling of the purchased land to the CDC by way of intentional omission of recording the original land purchase with authorities. When this matter emerged to the surface, the City government imposed a heavy tax (1 billion won) on W.

▽ Power of Residents = Democratic Federation of Haannam (Rep. Choi Bae-keun, economics professor at Kunkook Univ.) succeeded in inducing the participation of the residents. They had waged a drive for endorsement almost every day on the street for about a month from near the end of last April. It was successful since the endorsement drive was conducted around the time when most people come back from work. In addition, Democratic Federation of Haannam (DFH) also succeeded in finding out, to a considerable degree, the truth of many suspicions through man-to-man interview with government officials, residents and landowners.

Professor Choi said, “I could not close my eyes to the suspicions concerning the decisions made by our local government. I will also keep my eyes on the city government in the future.”

Professor Choi Hung-suk of administration at Korea Univ. evaluated, “This is very meaningful since residents succeeded in monitoring the administration of a locality, not through demonstrations, but through the legal system. Cases like this will contribute to the realization of self-governance within localities.”

▽ Explanation = One official of the CDC said, “Inducing private investment was done pursuant to the city ordinances. We are considering, however, ways to diminish the size of profits to W, including conversion of part of the operation costs to the capital.”

Mayor Lee Kyo-bum said, “It happened before I took office. But I will listen to what residents want. But we will not make any changes to the planned project.”