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Large-scale National Plans May Receive a Setback

Posted February. 04, 2005 22:56,   


Large-scale national projects which receive vast amounts of budget money are facing a deadlock one after another due to concerned parties’ severe opposition and legal disputes.

Following the government’s decision on February 3 to study what impact tunnel construction through Mt. Cheonseong for a bullet train would have on the environment, surrendering to Buddhist nun Jiyul’s hunger strike, it ended up revising its Saemangeum reclamation project under a court order.

In regard to this, some critics are blaming the government’s rushed way of conducting projects, while others are raising concerns that the irrational resolution of the incident amid opposition from concerned parties and conflicting interests has left a bad precedent for future national projects.

The Third Administration Department at the Seoul Administration Court (presiding judge: Kang Young-ho) on February 4 effectively held the hands of the plaintiffs by ruling, “The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry should retract its rejection to the plaintiffs’ demand for the cancellation of or changes in the Saemangeum project, as its rejection violates the public surface reclamation law,” in the petition some North Jeolla province residents and environmental protection groups filed against the Agriculture and Forestry minister demanding cancellation of the plan.

The court said, “Cancellation of or change in the government’s license for common surface reclamation and project conduction is direly needed now that the original purpose of the Saemangeum reclamation or that of the project per se has changed, thereby posing a significant risk to the public in environmental, conditional, and economic terms.”

It notably ruled, “It is hard to recognize that the project will bring huge economic benefits, since the government intends to destroy tideland and create farmland in its place, at a time like this when this nation has a problem with the oversupply of rice.”

The court, however, fell short of recommending the immediate halt of the ongoing tide embankment reinforcement work (which is designed to prevent existing embankments from being swamped in seawater.)

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry responded, “The court did not deny our project itself, though it issued a ruling that the project be ‘changed’ or ‘cancelled,’” adding, “We will decide early next week whether to appeal or not through meetings with related ministries.”

In case the ministry appeals, the plaintiffs have decided to apply for a provisional injunction of suspension of effect regarding its reclamation license and project conduction. The project is almost certain to float for a long period of time as the present plan needs an overall alteration if the government accepts the court’s ruling. Even if it appeals, it will take quite a long time before the court issues a final ruling.

Nevertheless, the court turned down or dismissed the plaintiffs’ petition for cancellation of the government’s plan surrounding the Saemangeum project as ineligible for administrative litigation.

Jong sik Kong woogija@donga.com kong@donga.com