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[Opinion] Salaries of City Council Members

Posted March. 26, 2008 03:03,   


Early last month, an embarrassing incident occurred at the Gangbuk Ward Council of Seoul when it attempted to expel a member named “Choi.” When Choi began a movement to repay last year’s hikes in legislative fees and reduce the amount of the raises, other council members tried to punish her for defamation of the council and its members. Ten of her colleagues tried ostracize her by resorting to childish behavior such as refusing to shake hands with her or not eating lunch with her. Some 100 disgusted city residents held a protest in front of the council. The attempt to expel Choi failed but was unpleasant.

In November last year, the Songpa Ward Council of Seoul raised its legislative fees from 37.2 million won to 57.2 million won all at once, the highest increase among municipal councils in Korea. Songpa did not ask residents for their opinions and passed the bill rather quickly. Residents did not remain silent, as 17,776 of them sponsored a revision bill on Mar.14, pressing their council. Some 500 residents of the Gwangjin Ward Council of Seoul urged an administrative audit on legislatives fee to the Seoul City Hall last week.

To make matters worse, the Seoul Metropolitan Board of Education will raise its fees for board members 35 percent from 50.4 million won to 68.04 million won. The board says the raise will meet the level of Seoul City Council members, citing regulations that education board members are eligible for the same treatment that city council members get. Council spending is divided into three categories – legislative fees, traveling expenses and monthly fees. The problem is the monthly fee, which is set in consideration of an area’s income level and legislative activities.

In Japan, Yamatsurimachi in Fukushima Prefecture has decided to pay its council members on a daily basis, not monthly. Members will get 30,000 yen (about 300,000 won) every time they attend a council meeting. By doing so, the Japanese city is expected to cut 75 percent of its budget of 3.4 million yen a year. Korean city council members should learn from this, as they do not work for legislation that much. Instead, they receive legislative fees amounting to the annual incomes of average white-collar workers and take advantage of their status for their own gain.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)