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[Editorial] Referendum Is Needed on the Executive Capital

[Editorial] Referendum Is Needed on the Executive Capital

Posted June. 17, 2004 21:39,   


A variety of opinion polls show that more and more people believe what the government describes as a transfer of executive functions of Seoul to a new city is in effect a complete change of the venue of the government; a move which respondents believe requires a referendum to be implemented. However, it repeatedly fell on the deaf ears of the government.

“The prerequisite to the executive capital is national consensus and participation,” President Roh Moo-Hyun declared at a presidential candidates’ TV debate in 2002. “To derive the national consensus, I will put the executive capital scheme to a vote.” Therefore, it will be less than convincing when President Roh cites his election as president as the national approval for the scheme and the special law on the construction of an executive capital, the ramshackle legislation pushed through at the National Assembly, as a legal justification.

“It is not that we move everything out of Seoul, but the presidential residence, the executive branch, and the National Assembly will be relocated, and some arms of the executive branch will be farmed according to their functions,” President Roh said. However, under the government’s scheme, about 11 constitutional institutions including the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, National Election commission, will be relocated out of Seoul. This is, in effect, a change of the capital. The masses want a convincing explanation of why there has been changes in the nature of the executive capital and why the construction cost of the executive capital is estimated at 12 trillion won, up from an initial four or six trillion won.

It is contradictory when President Roh said he did not need to put the scheme to the vote because he has once attempted to put his own presidency to a vote although there was little legal ground for it. Article 72 of the Constitution states that the president may submit important policies relating to diplomacy, national defense, unification, and other matters relating to the national destiny to a national referendum if he deems it necessary. Is President Roh effectively attempting to do what he is not allowed by law while not doing what he is required by law?

The government and the National Assembly start the debate on the executive capital anew. The reasonable solution is a national referendum on a new scheme submitted by the government and the National Assembly. The change of the capital is an issue of such significance that will determine not just the fate of a government, but also the future of a nation.