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[Opinion] Brazen Local Lawmakers

Posted August. 24, 2007 07:29,   


When local lawmakers elected in last year’s elections began to get official payments, many younger people and professionals replaced older locals, who had large influence in their regions, in local councils. However, it does not seem that much change has been made. Of course, there are active lawmakers who want to address the needs of residents. But critics say that old practices such as wasteful travel, corruption, and meager political activities did not disappear.

The lawmakers of the affluent Gangnam District Council of Seoul are under fire for their distorted polls in an attempt to get raises. The Council raised their next year’s pay to 61 million won, a 124 percent increase from this year’s 27.2 million. Gangnam residents are not happy about it. Since conducting a poll was a necessary process, the lawmakers used tricks; without clearly unveiling this year’s payment: they asked only about the validity of the raise in salary in an online poll, and conducted an offline survey among community representatives.

In an opinion poll, a sample group should be extracted from a random population. However, the Council chose community representatives who they thought would answer positively to their questions. Experts say that their online survey is no more than waste, because they have no worthy information. Darrell Huff, the author of “How to lie with statistics” says in his book that in order not to be duped by tricks of statistics, one has to check out whether they contradict common sense. Would any resident with common sense agree with the idea of doubling the salary of local lawmakers all at once?

Gangnam District, whose financial independence rate is 98 percent, is one of the richest areas in Korea. It has good infrastructure and a nice residential environment, and its residents are highly educated. However, the Council’s decision to take the lead in raising lawmakers’ pay does not seem to have been wise. Suppose all local councils wanted to double their pay. Then an additional 55.4 billion won in taxes will be needed, even if the poorest Chungbuk Provincial Council is used as a standard. Why are Gangnam lawmakers ungrateful for their better salary than their counterparts?

Chung Seong-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com