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Suspension of Moving Administrative Capital to the Chungcheong Region

Suspension of Moving Administrative Capital to the Chungcheong Region

Posted October. 21, 2004 23:12,   


The Constitutional Court ruled by eight to one on Thursday that the Special Law on New Administrative Capital Construction was unconstitutional.

Accordingly, the special law has lost its effect, and the government’s plan to relocate the administrative capital has been suspended.

“The constitutional provisions do not stipulate Seoul as the capital of Korea, but it has been the capital city for more than 600 years since the Joseon Dynasty. Therefore it is accepted as the country’s capital under an unwritten law,” said the justices in the ruling.

The court announced that moving the capital city outside Seoul should be carried out under the procedures of the Constitution, or through its revision. The special law was unconstitutional because the government did not follow the process of the constitutional revision; thereby violating the people’s right to a national referendum under Article 130, paragraph 2 of the Constitution, the court said.

“Relocating a capital city is a matter relating to the national destiny stipulated by Article 72 of the Constitution, so it should be decided by a national referendum,” said Justice Kim Yung-il. “The government, however, did not hold the referendum, violating the Constitution.”

Justice Jeon Hyo-sook, however, said in her dissenting opinion, “The site of a capital city is only a tool for fulfilling the object of the Constitution, and it is not necessarily a matter that must be decided through the constitutional revision. Therefore the petitioners’ claim that their right to vote had been infringed upon is unlawful.”

On July 12, 169 people, composed of 50 Seoul city officials, professors, public servants and college students, submitted the petition to the Constitutional Court, saying their right to a national referendum was violated as the government proceeded the capital city relocation without holding the referendum.

The ruling party needs two-thirds majority, which is 200 votes, at the National Assembly in order to revise the Constitution for the relocation.

Nevertheless, the Uri Party with 151 seats cannot push forward with the revision without the consent of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP).

The government’s spokesperson, Jeong Sun-kyun, a director of the Korean Overseas Information Service (KOIS), issued a statement right after the ruling that the government would suspend any activity that has legal effects, including a Committee on the New Administrative Capital Construction.

Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan and leaders of the Uri Party held an emergency meeting at the prime minister’s official residence, and decided to form a special council co-headed by the party’s policy committee chairman, a minister of government policy coordination, and a Cheong Wa Dae secretary for national policy for countermeasures.

“Balanced national development and easing regulations on the Seoul metropolitan area are very important tasks for the national development,” said Uri Party spokesperson Kim Hyeon-mi at the briefing. “For the tasks, the government and the party will carefully establish reasonable and proper measures after collecting the public opinion.”

Soo-Hyung Lee Young-Chan Yoon sooh@donga.com yyc11@donga.com