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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 11)

All Headlines 07:01 June 11, 2019

Local council reform
:It is time to ensure spirit of grassroots democracy

About 28 years have passed since the nation revived the local autonomy system in 1991 to elect governors, mayors and council members. The revival came after the military government led by President Park Chung-hee abolished the system in 1961 after he seized power through a coup.

The system for decentralization seems to have taken root as a tool for the realization of grassroots democracy over the past three decades. Governors, mayors and council members appear to have secured the status as the servants for their voters.

Regrettably, however, local autonomy has left many questions, to the great disappointment of the people, particularly with regard to the behavior of some council members. Some local council members, especially those in small cities and districts of metropolitan cities, have come under fire for being involved in various scandals related to gambling, lying, corruption and even prostitution.

It is no wonder that people have become angry about such council members, whose basic duties are to work to improve residents' living standards and wellbeing.

A recent case with the Seongnam City Council illustrates the seriousness of the situation. Ruling and opposition members violently clashed over the sale of a construction site for the Pangyo Ward Office of the city. The clash escalated into a legal battle.

Whatever caused the partisan confrontation, it is utterly deplorable for the representatives of the people to have resorted to violence instead of dialogue and compromise. A total of 4,016 local council members have to keep in mind the growing public sentiment against local councils.

For its part, the government and the National Assembly are urgently required to work out fundamental measures to reform the current local council system that costs too much for its poor performance. It is time to make the system serve the true spirit of grassroots democracy.
(END)

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