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[Reporter`s View] Saemangum seized by political interests

[Reporter`s View] Saemangum seized by political interests

Posted March. 26, 2001 15:17,   


In the wake of a statement by the Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) saying that a final decision on the Saemangum Reclamation Project should be prudently made, it becomes those involved to thoroughly review the value of the tidal flat in question. Owing to the fact that its economic viability is still in doubt, a final decision on the fate of the controversial reclamation program has been deferred until the middle of next month. However, the atmosphere at Cheong Wa Dae and the Prime Minister`s Office appears to be little changed. And there has been little comment on the CSD`s assertion that the government should come out with a clear-cut position with regard to questions of an economic viability analysis and the genuine purpose of the reclamation work. In other words, is the project is aimed at securing farmland or doing both that and developing an industrial complex at the same time?

In connection with the postponement of the decision on the Saemangum program, Ahn Byung-Woo, director of Government Policy Coordination at the Prime Minister`s Office, said that before making the decision, the government would collect opinions from a wide range of concerned parties. A Cheong Wa Dae official stated that the deferment of the decision was mainly aimed at securing transparency in the decision-making process.

Noting that the Saemangum project was originally initiated out of political considerations, not economic necessity, a government official asserted that, from the standpoint of the government, what counts is the ``sentiment`` of the people in North Cholla Province.

That is to say that if the gigantic reclamation program, originally aimed at benefiting the local populace, is scrapped, the government would have to shoulder a tremendous political burden. Officials are of the view that it is impossible to shelve the project, since more than one trillion won was already injected and some 60 percent of the work has been completed.

The Saemangum project is a state program which requires an estimated budget of more than three trillion won. Noting that the project was state-driven, an economics professor said the decision on moving ahead ought to be made by experts based only on economic considerations. The main focus of the controversy over the reclamation work is how to forge a popular consensus on its future. In this connection, more time is needed to determine whether it would be more profitable to use the reclaimed site exclusively for farmland or also put it to use as an industrial zone. Also important is to study what impact both options would have on the environment.

Jung Young-Gwan yongari@donga.com