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A University Town Caught in the Middle

Posted November. 22, 2005 08:34,   


The research center construction project at Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, called “Green Bio” which the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at Seoul National University (SNU) is promoting, has come under hot political scrutiny.

Not only did the Ministry of Education fail to register the promotion budget this August for suspicious reasons, but also the annulment of the special state property accounting management law was brought up at the National Assembly, making the project itself obscure.

This project is worth 230 billion won in substance, covering 89,600 pyeongs of Pyeongchang-gun to create a valley of bio venture businesses and jointly promoted by SNU, Gangwon Province, and Pyeongchang-gun.

The original plan called for SNU to dispose of farms in the Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, and raise 140 billion won in accordance with the National Property Act, Gangwon Province 60 billion won, and Pyeongchang-gun 30 billion won. For SNU to sell the farms for project funds, the Ministry of Education must have posted its budget on the Ministry of Planning and Budget and secured it.

A project source asserted yesterday that the ministries of Education and Planning and Budget had consulted with the Korea Development Institute (KDI) for a budget feasibility study, and that in its middle and final evaluation report, the KDI affirmed that the Green Bio project would be feasible.

The Ministry of Education, however, did not reflect on the August budget for this project, the reason being that KDI’s final report was not announced. It is customary for the administration to wait for results after registering the budget at the Ministry of Planning and Budget if the result of the feasibility study is expected to be positive.

Responding to this, a promoter of this project Uri Party assemblyman Lee Kwang-jae said, “The Ministry of Education, which is allergic to SNU businesses, was waiting and watching the Uri Party and Cheong Wa Dae having quarrels with SNU and took unprecedented action,” and engendered controversy.

A Ministry of Education official said, “We didn’t reflect it because the final results hadn’t arrived,” and added, “There have been no previous cases of the Ministry of Education drawing up projects after examining a preliminary feasibility study.”

If the annulment bill of the National State Management Special Act which was submitted to the National Assembly is ratified, SNU will not be able to sell off its property and attain project grants. Instead, it will have to expand on its regular budget, making the project plan even harder to execute.

An SNU personnel said, “The project, which had floated political winds from the outset, has been affected by the conflict between SNU and the government. If we cannot procure the funds at least partially by year-end, it is likely that the project plan will be discontinued.”

Due to the increased land value that this project has brought about, Pyeongchang residents at a disadvantage are expected to protest heavily.

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com