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[Editorial] President’s Another Life-or-Death Bid: Transfer of the Capital

[Editorial] President’s Another Life-or-Death Bid: Transfer of the Capital

Posted July. 08, 2004 22:22,   


It came as surprise as well as disappointment that President Roh Moo-hyun condemned public opposition to government plans for a new administrative capital as a campaign to discredit or unseat him. When he attacked the majority opinion demanding prudence in the transfer of the capital, the nation’s long-term policy, in such a fashion, he put “the people’s participation,” the watchword this government has strongly advocated to shame.

Building a new capital is the issue that should not be set in a light of power or of ideological value. It is the issue that directly involves the future of the country and the future livelihood of the people. Nevertheless, the president sees it with the logic of political power and holds it as political. Does he think he will build support for the plans before their implementation? If he does, he misread the situation.

The president said as if some newspapers lead opposition to the plans in an attempt to safeguard their vested right. It is not worth comment since it stems from a twisted consciousness driven by the logic of political power.

When the current government took office, as many as 57.1 percent in opinion polls supported the transfer of the capital. Early this year, opposition (42.7 percent) and proponent (43.5 percent) were squarely divided. Early last month, after the announcement of 85 candidate venues raised concerns, the opposition became a majority. In the latest poll, the opposition leads the proponent by 10 percent. And about 60 percent said they believed the transfer of the capital won’t be proceeded as planned.

Has President Roh been already discredited, accepted the polls at face value? Should we support the plan unconditionally if we still credit him? There won’t be stability in the government if everything is interpreted in such a confrontational manner.

“The transfer of the capital, the task of national significance, should not be forcedly moved forward for political reasons,” said 130 senior opinion leaders in a statement. They urged the government to form national consensus before moving out to a new capital because they are concerned about the future of the country.

What is at stake is beyond the success and failure of the Roh Moo-hyun government. The past, present, and future of the Republic of Korea is up in the air. This is not the issue a president can push through as a political bet.

Editorial writer, Oh Myung-chul oscar@donga.com