Gov. Kim Tae-hwan
By Kim Rahn
Jeju Island residents will vote to unseat their mayor, Kim Tae-hwan, for pushing ahead with a plan to establish a naval base on the resort island despite public opposition.
It is the first recall action against a provincial governor since the system was adopted in 2007.
The Jeju Election Commission said Wednesday that 51,044 residents signed to approve the recall of the mayor, satisfying the quorum for the recall vote, one 10th of the total population of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, or 41,649.
The commission asked Kim to submit a written explanation to back his action within 20 days. Whether or not he submits it, the vote will be held.
After the commission receives the explanation, it will announce the vote date and Kim will be suspended from duty as mayor until the result is announced. The vote will take place late August or early September according to due process.
The mayor will be ousted if more than one third of eligible residents cast a vote and more than half of them are in favor of the recall. If less than one third of the residents participate in the vote, the election watchdog will not count the ballots and Kim will retain his position.
The vote comes after a coalition of 35 civic groups campaigned for the dismissal after Kim signed a memorandum of understanding with the central government in April to house a military facility at Gangjeong Port near Seogwipo by 2014. They claimed the naval base will heighten regional military tension and damage the island’s ecosystem.
``Kim did not try to solve dispute that occurred between residents while promoting the project and ignored the provincial council’s opinion. We believe Jeju residents will acknowledge the problem in Kim’s governing style through the vote,’’ a member of the coalition said.
In December 2007, the nation’s first resident recall vote was held against Hanam City Mayor Kim Hwang-sik, who was in conflict with residents over his plan to construct a large crematorium in the city. However, the vote was void as the turnout was less than one third of eligible residents.