Retrospect and Prospect of Elected Local Autonomy of Seoul Metropolitan Government in 20 Years: Roles and Challenges to Realize Citizen-Oriented Decentralization


It has been approximately 20 years since governors or mayors were popularly elected in the local government system of our country. Seoul has a special position because of its dominant socioeconomic status in Korea. Seoul, the Capital of Korea, also plays a leading role in the decentralization system due to the senior status of the local governments. Therefore, Seoul needs to play different and important roles in decentralization strategies as follows: 1) role of a political partner of the central government administrations, 2) supporting role for achieving balanced national development as a senior of the local governments, 3) role in enhancing the citizens’ satisfaction with public services in daily life, 4) role in supporting the reinforcement of citizens’ democratic capabilities in local autonomy.

This research reviews various activities and performances of the Seoul Metropolitan Government in the local autonomy over the past 20 years and explores the roles which Seoul should pursue in the future. More specifically, the outcomes and limitations of Seoul in the local autonomy were investigated and organized from the 1st period of the elected local government in 1995 (1995-1998), to the 5th period (2010-2011: Mayor Oh Se-Hoon, 2011-2014: Park Won-Soon). Activities of the current local government (2014-present; the 6th period) were also analyzed. Firstly, major activities and their outcomes focusing on the key factors of decentralization of Seoul – the autonomous legislation, organization, finance, the public roles and work distribution between the central government and Seoul, activities in cooperative governance, and status of citizen participation – were analyzed and described. Secondly, the restrictions on Seoul’s autonomous activities within the institutional framework of the current government system in each area and the major obstacles in realizing citizen-oriented autonomy were analyzed. Various real-life cases showing the difficulties in realization of citizen-oriented autonomy were explored and described to help in easy understanding by citizens. Also, a comparison with advanced cases of local government operations in the overseas countries such as Japan was performed in a similar context. Thirdly, the policy direction and principles of promoting decentralization of Seoul in the future and the core tasks and strategies to realize the policy goals were identified and suggested based on the main results of the previous analysis.

The major tasks that Seoul should promote in each key area of decentralization are as follows: In the autonomous legislation area, the status of local regulations should be raised through expansion of the authority and scope of the enactment of local ordinances. The reinforcement of local autonomy with regard to local government organizations and the number of regular public officers in local government operation should be promoted. Local finance should be expanded through the introduction of autonomous authority to impose local taxes, and the rational adjustment of financial sources of revenue between the central government and local governments. With respect to the allocation of pubic work, comprehensive power handover such as simultaneous administrative and financial support for the works transferred and the expansion of work transfers enhancing the autonomous decision-making authority should be promoted. In the area of cooperative governance, the practical authority of the consultation body should be reinforced. Also, roles of citizens and active participation in the process of local decision-making should be expanded and vitalized.




01 Introduction

1_Background and Purpose

2_Major Contents and Research Flow


02 Meaning and Significance of Decentralization

1_Necessity and Value of Decentralization

2_Decentralization in the Perspective of Seoul

3_The Key Components of Decentralization


03 Major Activities and Performances of Seoul in the Local Autonomy over 20 years

1_Major Policy Directions and Activities of Seoul in the 5 Administration Periods

2_Autonomous Legislation Area

3_Autonomous Organization Area

4_Autonomous Finance Area

5_Work Allocation between the Central Government and Seoul

6_Cooperative Governance Area

7_Roles and Participation Activities of Citizens


04 Restrictions and Limitations of Local Autonomy in Seoul

1_Autonomous Legislation Area

2_Autonomous Organization Area

3_Autonomous Finance Area

4_Work Allocations between the Central Government and Seoul

5_Cooperative Governance Area

6_Roles and Participation Activities of Citizens


05 Policy Directions and Strategies of Seoul in Decentralization

1_Policy Directions and Principles in Promoting Decentralization of Seoul Metropolitan Government

2_Key Tasks and Strategies of Seoul to Realize Decentralization




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