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Development Overview

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Overview of Korea’s development experience

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Development Overview
Government and Law Governance

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Governance

Local administration: Phase 2

1. Institutional Guarantees of Local Government and Administration
 
(1) Constitutional Guarantees of Local Government and Administration
The cause of local government and administration entered a slump period as a result of the military coup d’état of May 16, 1961 and the authoritarian government that followed it. Although the new government’s Constitution, enacted in December 1962, retained the provisions for local government, the statutes required by the Constitution on the timeline and formation of local councils were never enacted, thus fundamentally eliminating all remaining hope for their revival. The Constitution of the Fourth Republic, enacted in 1972, similarly retained nominal provisions for local administration, but postponed the formation of local councils indefinitely until the reunification of the Korean peninsula.
 
(2) Statutory Guarantees of Local Government and Administration
Local government and administration that had been constitutionally enshrined until the end of the Second Republic experienced significant changes following the May 16 coup. The provisional military regime and the Third Republic that came into being in the aftermath of the coup fundamentally reshaped local government and administration through a series of decrees and legislations, including, the Military Revolution Council (MRC) Decree 4 of 1961; the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction (SCNR) Decree 8 of 1961; the Local Government Act (LGA) of 1961; the Provisional Measures Act on Local Government (PMA) of 1961; the Special Measures Act on the Five Provinces in North Korea of 1962; the Special Measures Act on the Administration of Seoul of 1962; the Act on the Direct Supervision of the Busan Government of 1962; the Education Act of 1963; and the amended LGA of 1973.
 
 
2. Main Terms of Institutional Guarantees and their Evolution
 
(1) Constitutional Terms of Guarantees for Local Government and Administration
The Constitution of the Third Republic, enacted in the aftermath of the military coup of May 16, 1961, retained the earlier constitutional provisions for local government in some part,[1] though it lacked a provision for the election of local government heads, and added an article that left it up to a new statute to determine the types of local government organizations that should be created. The two provisions on local government in the Constitution of the Fourth Republic are identical to their counterparts in the Constitution of the Third Republic,[2] except for the former’s stipulation that the formation of local councils be delayed until the reunification of the Korean peninsula.
 
(1) Statutory Terms of Guarantees for Local Government and Administration
The LGA, enacted in November 1960, underwent tremendous change under the military regime. The provisional military regime and the Third Republic that came into being after 1961 aggressively revised and invalidated major provisions of the LGA of 1960 through multiple decrees and legislations. These revised/invalidated provisions included the Military Revolution Council (MRC) Decree 4 of 1961; the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction (SCNR) Decree 8 of 1961; the Local Government Act (LGA) of 1961; the Provisional Measures Act on Local Government (PMA) of 1961; the Special Measures Act on the Five Provinces in North Korea of 1962; the Special Measures Act on the Administration of Seoul of 1962; the Act on the Direct Supervision of the Busan Government of 1962; the Education Act of 1963; and the amended Local Government Act of 1973.
MRC Decree 4 (1961) formally dissolved all local councils that had existed until then, while SCNR Decree 8 required local councils to refer matters of decision making to higher-up local organizations or the central government.

The PMA, newly enacted in 1961 and amended seven times afterward, provided the institutional basis, along with the LGA of 1960, for local government and administration in the Third and Fourth Republics. Where the PMA conflicted with the LGA in application, the latter took precedence (Article 11 of the PMA).

The PMA divided local government organizations into the provinces, Seoul, and other cities and counties. Eup and myeon became sub-districts of counties, with the heads of those districts appointed by the county mayor. The administrative organizations of the provinces and Seoul were further defined by Cabinet orders, and subject to local rules approved by the Secretary of Interior.

The PMA of 1962 categorized the mayors of cities as either Grade 2 or 3 in public service, and mayors of counties as Grade 3. The PMA of June 1963 introduced a rule by which the mayor of a city with a population of 150,000 or more could be appointed and treated as a specially appointed public official. The PMA of December 1963 designated the positions of the Mayor of Busan and provincial governors as those specially appointed by the President via the Prime Minister (based on nominations from the Secretary of Interior). Mayors of cities and counties were now also appointed by the President via the Prime Minister and upon nominations from the Secretary of Interior. Unlike the mayors of Seoul and Busan or provincial governors who were treated as specially appointed public officials, these mayors were treated as general government employees of Grade 2 or 3. The position of Vice-Governor was also introduced into each province.

Special acts were also enacted with respect to the local government organizations of Seoul and Busan. The Special Measures Act on the Administration of the City of Seoul (SMA), enacted in January 1962, transformed the structure of local administration in the city. Seoul, which had previously been under the authority of the Secretary of Interior, was now placed under the Prime Minister’s supervision. Accordingly, other ministries and departments of the central government could no longer wield as much supervisory and instructive power over Seoul as they used to, as their powers were subject to various Cabinet ordinances.

In contrast, the scope of power for the Mayor of Seoul, nominated by the Prime Minister and appointed by the President, broadened considerably. Until the City Council of Seoul came into being, the enactment of municipal ordinances, budget decisions, government bond issuance and others were subjected to the Prime Minister’s approval, while the Mayor of Seoul decided which remaining matters required Council approval.

Presidential decrees were now to decide the quorum of government employees at Grade 5 or above who would work in Seoul, all upon appointment by the President. The quorum of government employees at Grade 6 or below appointed by the Mayor to work in Seoul was decided by municipal ordinances. Busan, which had been treated until then in the same light as other smaller municipalities despite its population of over one million people, came to be placed under the direct supervision of the central government pursuant to the Act on the Direct Government Supervision of the City of Busan in 1962. The Act granted the local government of Busan metropolitan government status.

The military government also enacted the Special Measures Act on the Five Provinces of North Korea concerning the administration of the region that had not been restored to South Korea after the Korean War. The Act required that offices for the five Northern provinces be set up in Seoul, with each provincial governor specially appointed by the President. The administrative organizations of the five Northern provinces were to be determined according to Cabinet orders.

The authoritarian government sought to unify local administration by bringing special and general administrative organizations, like the National Election Commission, provincial agricultural centers (predecessors to the Rural Development Administration), the Agriculture Instruction Agency, and administrative bodies for education, together. In particular, this process involved abolishing the local school boards of Seoul and other cities, and converting them into education bureaus or education divisions in general local government organizations. The education bureaus of counties were also abolished and became education divisions. The Education Act of 1963 led to the creation of education committees in charge of enforcing education policies in Seoul, Busan, and the provinces, and to the appointment of superintendents to cities and counties who would serve single terms.

The government also restructured local administrative organizations to bring them into closer alignment with the development policy. General and special bodies of administration were merged to improve efficiency, while local administration in general gained greater authority from the central government.

As the Third Republic continued to stress economic development as the top-priority policy issue, local administration gradually grew in stature and power. The various policy measures that the central government implemented single-handedly dissolved in local administrations over time out of necessity. New measures were also introduced to improve and develop the operations of local administrations. Measures for local development included the campaign for strengthening administration at the level of dong and ri, the launching of trial projects for myeon-level districts, the construction of resident cooperatives in dong and ri, the formation of neighborhood funds, and the centralization of administrative systems.
 

The capacity and competence of local administrations became all the more important for implementing the diverse policies and measures of the state. While the central government continued with its heavy-handedness, local administrative bodies gradually gained in importance as policy issues. Public participation arose as a possible means for revitalizing local communities, while the offices of central government agencies were relocated to regions outside Seoul to stimulate local administrations. The offices of local administrations were also automated. Moreover, the training curricula for local government employees grew in intensity and depth to ensure maximal competency, while new courses were introduced to develop farming instructors.

The PMA of 1973 now allowed local administrations to form joint administration councils for tasks concerning two or more local government organizations.

The major governmental rules determining the structure and division of administrative bodies during this period were the Cases on Provincial and Seoul Metropolitan Special Administrative Agencies, the Cases on Provincial and Busan Metropolitan Administrative Agencies, and the Cases on Seoul Metropolitan Special Administrative Agencies. The Cases on Provincial and Busan, etc. was later revised into rules governing the administrative bodies of provinces and cities directly under central government supervision in 1981. The Cases on Seoul enacted in 1973 underwent multiple revisions until 1990. All these Cases defined the administrative bodies to be found in Seoul, Busan, and the provinces, as well as the quota and ranks or grades of central government employees who would work in those areas.
 
 
3. Significance and Evaluation of Institutional Guarantees
 
(1) Constitution
Although the Constitutions of the Third and Fourth Republics included provisions for local government, they also indefinitely delayed the formation of working local councils (until the day of Korea’s national reunification, in the case of the Fourth Republic), in effect abolishing the local government system. This current against local government was perhaps ignited by the many failures of such governments witnessed since 1951. Local administration became largely a matter not of self-government, but of bureaucratic rule, where local governments were seen as instruments of economic development, and efficiency was prioritized over democracy.
 
(2) Statutes
One may effectively discuss and evaluate the state of local government during this period by drawing a distinction between local government and local administration. The Third and Fourth Republics indeed represented a dark age for local government and grassroots politics, as they effectively banned local councils from arising and making meaningful decisions on local affairs. The errors and failures committed in the name of local self-rule over the past decades had uncovered much waste and inefficiency in local politicking.

And yet, the abolition of local councils also had the effect of enhancing the efficiency of local administration. Efficiency was the guiding principle that shaped the approach of the Third and Fourth Republics to local administration. The military governments replaced the election of local officials with presidential appointment, thereby saving local communities the wastes and adverse effects of elections. This power of appointment strengthened the central government’s control over local administration as well, since appointed officials were obligated to lead local administrations according to the policy priorities set by the central government. Although this monolithic approach may have had some unwanted side effects, national policies and projects were nevertheless implemented with greater efficiency throughout Korea during this time.

This close alignment of the central government and local administrations was not the least facilitated by the practice of the central government assigning central government employees to local districts. Senior public officials appointed to positions outside Seoul helped to ensure that central government policies were being carried out as intended, while also leveling up the competence of local administrators in general. These bureaucrats played crucial roles in cementing the relationship between the central government and local administrations.

The elevation of Seoul and Busan into special statuses—the former a “Special Metropolitan City” and the latter a “Directly Governed Metropolitan City”—above other municipalities was also an attempt at improving the efficiency of local administration. The decision reflected the complexity and particularity of running metropolitan cities as well as the growing need for local governments in those areas. Central government employees continued to be appointed to these two cities to ensure central government monitoring of their operations. This involvement was necessary in order to achieve efficiency and consistency in local administration, and the effective implementation of central government policies in those regions.

Projects carried out in multiple administrative districts were rife with risks for sparking conflicts of interests and disputes among the districts involved, and thus raised the need for more efficient metropolitan administration. Accordingly, the Joint Administrative Council was born.

The Third and Fourth Republics may have employed diverse measures that significantly improved the efficiency of local administration, but their heavily bureaucratic approach also hampered local self-government and democratic politics. The excessive emphasis on efficiency undermined the particularities and diversity of local communities by demanding that national policies be implemented uniformly for uniform results. The abolition of local government bore a close relationship with the democratic setbacks experienced during this era. It is for that reason that protesters and politicians demanding democratization during and after this period always called for the resurrection of local government, among other things, in the name of democracy.
 

 
[1] Article 109
  1. Local government organizations shall perform administrative tasks pertaining to the welfare of local residents, manage properties, and enact provisions within the limits of laws and decrees.
  2. The types of local government organizations shall be determined by law.
Article 110
  1. Each local government shall have its own local council.
  2. Matters pertaining to the organization, power, and election of local council members as well as to the appointments of local government heads and to other aspects of the organization and operation of local governments shall be determined by law.
[2] Article 114
  1. Local government organizations shall perform administrative tasks pertaining to the welfare of local residents, manage properties, and enact provisions within the limits of laws and decrees.
  2. The types of local government organizations shall be determined by law.
Article 115
  1. Each local government shall have its own local council.
  2. Matters pertaining to the organization, power, and election of local council members as well as to the appointments of local government heads and other aspects of the organization and operation of local governments shall be determined by law.

Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.