Go to contents

Welfare Versus Pork-Barrel Politics

Posted January. 09, 2005 22:49,   


“Pork-barrel projects, or resident welfare projects?”

The NEC (National Election Commission) has put a brake on local governments’ major projects on the grounds that government leaders might use them for campaigning in preparation for next year’s local elections.

However local governments are opposing this, saying it is unfair to link all resident welfare projects with the elections.

“These Projects are Prohibited”-

Jung-gu, a district in Daejeon, has been holding a District Sports Competition every October, but is not planning to hold it this year. One district in Seoul is pondering on whether to hold its 10-year-old annual District Walking Competition this year. This is because the NEC has put a brake on these events due to the fact that food or prizes are being handed out.

One local government in South Jeolla Province received a warning from NEC after drawing up a budget request to give health education to 3,000 seniors on welfare and hand out 8,000 won to participating seniors for meals and transportation. An official from this local government complained, “Shouldn’t the welfare administration be encouraging health education for needy seniors instead?”

The NEC has recently requested 777 cases of projects being undertaken by 10 metropolitan governments and 121 cities/counties/districts to change their projects because they might violate the election law. This is a warning that if these events are held as originally planned, the governments may be prosecuted for violation of the election law.

This is the first time the NEC has investigated local government project plans and requested changes. Last November and December, the NEC analyzed the details of budget draw-ups on all major enterprises of 16 cities/provinces and 234 cities/counties/districts.

Controversy and Opposition from the Government-

Among the enterprises that were stalled by the NEC, 573 cases, or 74 percent out of the total are related to various festivals and events.

Related local governments are lashing back, saying that they are “not allowed to engage in welfare administration at all.” The governments said, “It is not easy to hold events while not providing any prizes or food to the participants. Especially in events where awards need to be given, such as in cooking competitions, they cannot take place at all without prizes.”

The NEC responded by saying, “The NEC’s request does not mean ‘stop the projects no matter what,’ but rather, ‘adjust the details of the projects within the law,’” and continued, saying, “Holding local festivals and supplying conveniences to senior homes are not problems in themselves, but using these for campaigning is a problem.”

An NEC official said, “Handing out articles that are not defined in the laws and ordinances of the election laws is illegal,” pointing out that they should stick to the spirit of the revised election law. Especially since the prohibition period of donations has been changed from “180 days before elections” to “always” when the election law was revised last March, the NEC cannot but become stricter in looking out for candidates campaigning before next year’s local elections.

From 2002 to the present, the NEC has exposed 195 cases of election law violations, reporting 10 leaders to judicial authorities.