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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kwak's "gros couac"

The ultimate loser in last week's school lunch referendum* may not necessarily be OH Se-hoon.

The man who fought him on the issue, Seoul Education Superintendent KWAK No-hyun, will probably have to resign as well... but for a much less honorable reason : bribery. If corruption is unfortunately pandemic in Korean politics, the role of the corruptor even less glamourous.

KWAK admitted to giving KRW 200 M to a rival following last year's elections, but out of pity because the man was suicidal. Prosecutors believe it was the price for his withdrawal from the race.

Even before the elections, KWAK was criticized for blaming foreign schools and sending his kid to one at the same time. And I've already made my case* against his free lunch program, which is already very much contested as schools face the financial consequences of its implementation. But he promoted a very positive reform : making physical punishment illegal in Seoul schools.

This embarrassing case surfaced on August 24, the very day of the referendum, but only became public the next day : evidences arrived too late, and the risk to change unfairly the outcome of the vote was too big.

OH Se-hoon would have probably mobilized enough voters to pass the referendum. Now he's licking his wounds and looking for a new home, preferably in Gangbuk. Maybe he'll end up renting a hanok, who knows ?

After allowing the destruction of too many hanoks or such assets as Pimatgol, OH embraced preservation (ie for Seochon). And as expected, Seoulites start to realize the importance of this Mayor's legacy, particularly in the transformation of Seoul from a hard city to a soft city (ie neighborhood parks, human towns, redistribution of budgets from rich to poor districts, pedestrian areas, Gwanghwamun Square, art and design centers, global centers...).

As expected too, some of OH's more controversial pet projects will not survive his resignation : the three floating islands are already completed, but some parts of Hangnang Renaissance shall be abandoned, as well as his dream of a highway for tourist boats...

His successor will be elected on October 26, and a few candidates have already declared themselves. Han Myeong-sook (DP), who lost by a thin margin last time, was not among them but she leads the polls... even if she herself is being investigated for corruption. A duel with Na Kyung-won (GDP) would ensure a first female Mayor for the Korean capital.

Seoul Village 2011
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* see "
In memoriam OH Se-hoon", "Seoul free school lunch referendum (continued)"...
** see "
Seoul-Incheon canal"

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