The Korea Herald


Seoul to root out unfair support for civic groups done under Park Won-soon, Oh Se-hoon says

Over 1 trillion won used to unreasonably channel taxpayers’ money to civic groups, Seoul mayor claims

By Ko Jun-tae

Published : Sept. 13, 2021 - 13:53

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Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon speaks during a press briefing Monday. (Yonhap) Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon speaks during a press briefing Monday. (Yonhap)
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon vowed to overhaul the city government’s financial support system for civic groups undertaken by his predecessor, as he says the city has wrongfully spent its budget for nearly 10 years.

The mayor said in a press conference Monday that the Seoul Metropolitan Government has spent close to 1 trillion won ($851 million) over the past decade by directly and indirectly supplying funds to civic groups with questionable history and without noticeable progress.

Support funds to those in the private sector for initiatives is deemed a job for the city government, as in cases it could be better for those in the private sector with better specialty and experience than being done by public officials.

But Oh of the conservative People Power Party said that was not the case under his predecessor, Park Won-soon of the Democratic Party of Korea, who Oh accused of favoring certain civic groups in providing financial support and unfairly giving out public official posts during his years in office.

Oh detailed that Park and his favored civic groups created an ecosystem for themselves, using taxpayers’ money to support themselves outside the public gaze. The mayor said civic groups transformed to mediation agencies to connect the city government and other civic groups.

Under Park’s rule, the city government gave away the whole job of executing the budget to civic groups to another civic group, which Oh said is “an act of avoiding responsibility to citizens.”

Furthermore, Oh said Park’s city government gave out public official posts to leaders of connected civic groups, giving them the power to designate and allocate budget to be spent and distributed to and from civic groups.

Civic group leaders also assumed positions within the city government in charge of overseeing and carrying out evaluations for projects awarded to the private sector, resulting in reckless evaluations and missing forms, he added.

This has effectively made the Seoul city government an “ATM machine exclusively for civic groups,” Oh said, directly and indirectly incurring damages to taxpayers.

“Therefore, I seek to fix everything that became abnormal from carrying out projects with civic groups in the past 10 years and change it back to normal,” Oh said.

“We will eliminate any practices (in relation to civic groups) that used taxpayers’ money as their own, chasing after their own fortune in the name of being ‘civic.’”

Oh added his determination is not a means to delete what Park did during his time, but is a move to correct wrongful administrative moves. He asked for the municipal council, largely dominated by members of the Democratic Party, to cooperate in carrying out the plan.