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[Editorial] Who’s Policies Are In the National Interest? Prime Minister Lee’s or Governor Sohn’s?

[Editorial] Who’s Policies Are In the National Interest? Prime Minister Lee’s or Governor Sohn’s?

Posted May. 11, 2005 23:29,   


It seems that the conflict between the government and Gyeonggi Province over the issue of easing regulations in the metropolitan areas will end in victory for the latter. Chairman Sung Kyung-ryung of the Presidential Committee for Balanced National Development declared that he would immediately extend the deadline for foreign investors to newly or additionally construct factories in metropolitan areas, and allow new factories to be built for the domestic high-tech industry. Albeit belated, it is an appropriate action to take to strengthen national competitiveness. As a result 3M, a foreign company on the brink of bankruptcy, will be able to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for its plant in Hwa-seong City in Gyeonggi Province on May 26 as planned. Hopefully, this will relieve foreign companies from fears over the conflict.

On May 7 at a committee meeting, Sohn Hak-kyu, the governor of Gyeonggi Province, left the room in the middle of the speech by Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, who argued that easing regulations in metropolitan areas would have to take place in a considerate manner. The conflict between the two sides grabbed attention even as some said they would be the next chief executives in the political circle. However, the regulation ease is not something to be used for populism. It should be a matter of compromise in the context of national interests.

It is true that the issues of “balanced national development,” and “stronger competitiveness of metropolitan areas” are of great importance. The bottom line is that at a time when the economy has lost momentum with the potential growth rate at four percent, national competitiveness cannot be overlooked in the name of balanced national development. It was reported that the minister of Education as well as the minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy said on May 7, “Without easing regulations in the metropolitan areas, capitals of domestic major corporations about to invest worth 3.6 trillion won would go abroad instead of going to local regions,” arguing for the need to ease regulations. Nevertheless, the fact that Prime Minister Lee and Chairman Sung restrained the action, saying, “We have to wait until 2012 when the administrative capital is constructed and public institutes are relocated to a full scale,” raises some doubts over their political intentions.

It has been a while since Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party were criticized as seeing issues in terms of absolute black and white: “metropolitan areas versus local regions,” “the haves versus have-nots,” and “the pro-American and the anti-American.” It is clear that issues like easing regulations in metropolitan areas should not be addressed with political logic. The future cannot be promising for a nation when politics fetters the economy.