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Development Overview
Government and Law Governance

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Governance

Local government: Phase 3

1. Institutional Guarantees of Local Government and Administration
 
(1) Constitutional Guarantees of Local Government and Administration
The transition from the Fourth to the Fifth Republic resulted in some minor changes to local government and administration. Though the Constitution was amended twice during the Fifth Republic (in 1980 and 1987), it for the most part retained the local administration provisions set by the Fourth Republic with the exception of the provision citing the gradual adoption of local councils after reunification of the Korean peninsula and the provision obligating consideration of the financial independence of local government organizations for the establishment of local councils (Article 10, Supplementary Provisions to the Constitution). The constitutional amendment of 1987 by removing the financial independence provision effectively eliminated an obstacle to local government.
 
(2) Statutory Guarantees of Local Government and Administration
The Fourth Republic came to an end amid the explosive increase in the demand for democratization. Local government, one of the key pillars of the democratization movement, accordingly arose as a major political issue, leading the National Assembly to finally grant the formation of local councils. The Meeting of the Three Parties’ Leaders in the 11th National Assembly thus resulted in an agreement, in November 1984, on allowing local communities to organize local councils and government organizations beginning in 1987. To support this movement, the Research Committee for Implementation of Local Governments (RCILG) came into being as part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

A new statute, the Act on the Creation of the Directly Governed City of Daegu and the Metropolitan City of Incheon, was instituted in 1981 in recognition of the growing importance of local administration in ensuring more balanced national development. The Local Government Employees Act also underwent major revisions in 1981 and 1982, while the Rules on the Administrative Bodies of Provinces and Directly Governed Cities and the Rules on the Administrative Bodies of the Special City of Seoul were enacted in 1981. The growing demand for local government finally culminated in the complete amendment of the Local Government Act (LGA) in 1988.
 
 
2. Main Terms of Institutional Guarantees and their Evolution
 
(1) Constitutional Terms of Guarantees for Local Government and Administration
Notwithstanding the constitutional amendments that took place in 1980 and 1987, no major changes were made to local government provisions.[1] The Constitution of the Fifth Republic merely stated its formal guarantee of local government and the obligation for the creation of local councils as local government organizations, leaving the other details of local government up to the National Assembly and the government to decide according to law.

The Supplementary Provisions added to the Constitution of 1980, however, made the formation of local government organizations contingent upon the financial independence of related local communities; the Constitution of 1987, on the other hand, was devoid of such provisions.
 
(2) Statutory Terms of Guarantees for Local Government and Administration
The period of the Fifth Republic is nonetheless noteworthy for being a preparatory period for the resumption of local government in subsequent years. The newly amended LGA came to abolish and replace the last Provisional Measures on Local Government that had effectively revoked local government from Korean politics, thus paving the way for a new era of local government.
Some significant changes were made to the LGA of 1988. First, while the dual-level system of local administration was kept intact, the amended legislation also introduced the concept of gu as a new type of sub-city district eligible for local administration. Seoul, directly governed cities such as Busan, Daegu, and Incheon, and the provinces were newly categorized as metropolitan local governments, while cities, counties, and gu became basic local government organizations.
Interestingly, the LGA defined membership on local councils as purely honorary, but insisted that the heads of local government organizations be appointed by the President. Basic district local councils had to be set up within one year of the effectuation of the LGA, while metropolitan councils had to be set up within two years. The heads of local government organizations were given the power to appoint personnel for the secretariats of their respective local councils.
The LGA was once again amended in 1989 to introduce elections for local council members (to be held by June 30, 1990) and for local government heads (to be held by June 30, 1991). Another amendment of the LGA in 1990, however, extended the deadlines for local council member and local government head elections by one year each, i.e., to June 30, 1991, and to June 30, 1992, respectively. As per the amended legislation, local council elections were resumed in 1991, but the elections for local government heads remained long delayed until the amended LGA of 1994 fixed the final deadline as June 30, 1995.

Finally, the Rules on the Administrative Bodies of the Provinces and Directly Governed Cities of 1981, the Rules on the Administrative Bodies of Directly Governed Cities and the Provinces of 1988, and the Rules on the Administrative Bodies of the Special City of Seoul in 1988 defined the types and sizes of administrative bodies for the cities and provinces concerned, as well as the number, ranks, and grades of the central government to be posted to those bodies.
 
 
3. Significance and Evaluation of Institutional Guarantees
 
(1) Constitution
The Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which ruled Korea throughout the 1980s, remained much the same as the Constitution of the Fourth Republic, at least with respect to items on local government, except for minor changes. Nevertheless, the decade saw major transformations in the social atmosphere and increased public demand for local government and administration.
The replacement of original provisions delaying the start of local government until the reunification of the Korean peninsula and citing financial independence as a main factor in the expansion of local government represents a key triumph of the democratization movement of the era. The progress of democratization, first evident in the Declaration of June 29, 1987, involved striking down provisions that acted as barriers to the institution of local governments.
 
(2) Statutes
The most prominent change that occurred in relation to local government during this era was the complete amendment of the LGA in 1988. The amended legislation officially required the resumption of local government that had been suspended since the military coup of May 16, 1961. The amendment of 1988, though it recognized local councils only formally and delayed the election of local government heads, was nonetheless meaningful for its switch from the bureaucratic model of local administration that had been instituted over the past three decades to a more democratic model of local government and administration.

Nevertheless, the LGA of 1988 also showed a certain amount of reluctance on the central government’s part to allow local government, despite the overwhelming tide in favor of resuming local government spurred by the massive democratization movement that began with the Declaration of June 29, 1987.

Although the central government wanted to appear, at least on the surface, to give its blessing to the restart of local government, it still sought to maintain its strong, bureaucratic control of local administration. Major provisions in the amended LGA of 1988 attest to this desire. The amended legislation left the membership on local councils as purely honorary, and gave considerably greater power to the heads of local government organizations in comparison to the power granted to local council members. It also insisted that local government heads be appointed by the President, not elected, a system which allowed the Ministry of Home Affairs to continue to supervise and interfere with local administration. The provision allowing local government heads to appoint personnel to their respective local council secretariats betrays this intention as well. It was not until the 1990s that local government and administration regained significance as major strongholds of democracy and politics.
 
 
[1] Article 118
  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 119
  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.