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Mayor-city council spat turns uglier

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Wednesday refused to promulgate an ordinance passed by the city council last month to provide free school meals to all students.

The decision is forecast to escalate the conflict between the two sides as the council is moving to make an arbitrary proclamation later this week.

Mayor Oh Se-hoon, affiliated with the conservative ruling Grand National Party, said he will fight against what he called populist measures taken by the opposition-controlled council. The councilmen decided to make the ordinance public independently, with their chairman He Kwang-tae invoking his authority.

The much-disputed ordinance has passed the council twice, on Dec. 1 and Dec. 30, despite fierce opposition from the city administration, which claimed the bill was budgetary waste.

The council members, however, allotted 70 billion won ($61 million) to provide free school meals to elementary school students this year and extend the measure to middle and high schools in the near future.

The administration said it would not execute the allotted budget and instead file a lawsuit against the councilmen for pushing the budget implementation without the consent of the mayor. The case will be submitted to the Supreme Court directly.

Currently, Oh is being investigated by prosecutors for neglect of duty, alleged by the councilmen. The council, dominated by the opposition Democratic Party, filed a suit against Oh last month for not showing up at the council meeting after the initial passage of the ordinance.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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