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[Editorial] Roh’s Failed Balanced Development Project and His Lingering Obsession

[Editorial] Roh’s Failed Balanced Development Project and His Lingering Obsession

Posted September. 13, 2007 03:25,   


Attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the launch of the Jeju Innovation City construction project, President Roh alleged, “Our vision of balanced national development may be downsized or aborted. I will see to it that the plan survives for administrations to come.” Then he added, “We need local vigilantes to safeguard my plan.” Roh seems the only person who does not understand how devastating his alleged balancing initiative has been. It turned the whole nation into an arena of real estate speculators, severely damaged the competitive edge of Seoul, and drove investors away from South Korea. Still, Roh tries nailing shut the options of future administrations.

Roh has poured in more than 500 million dollars into this project each year since his inauguration. In return, we have received only talk of balance and development. Roh has bellowed real estate speculation all across the nation while curbing the competitive Seoul Metropolitan area with numerous regulations. Disappointed South Koreans have jointed the “Exodus Korea” movement, leading to an unprecedented brain drain. As a result, the entire country including the targeted localities has lost momentum and now suffers from significantly dwindled economic potential. Mainland China is just two hours away. Yet Roh does not understand the nonsense of dividing the nation into Seoul vs. non-Seoul regions.

Under Roh, South Korea lost the economic engine that has driven this country to prosperity. The unprepared administration came up with various unprepared development plans, which will eventually end up as a zero-sum game. Actually, it may be worse than that. The sharply increased land prices will hamstring efforts of investors still interested in Korea. Furthermore, the so-called innovation cities may eat up the exiting cities and their economies. Some experts and scholars have pointed to the need for a “benchmarking approach.” In other words, we have to see what happens through a couple of model cities. But the stubborn Roh would not listen.

On the contrary, Roh and his men are hitting the gas harder. Two more cities, Gimcheon and Daegu, will host the same ceremonies soon. Actually, Roh wanted more and sooner. But the compensation for land subject to the government taking pulled him back. Acknowledging his absurd urgency, saying, “I know we are in a hurry,” Roh still alleges, “I want to see things getting started in an irrevocable way before I leave office.”

Roh has pushed government agencies and state-run companies into promising to move or moving to local cities. What is really needed, however, is a way to pursue the initiative without hurting the competitive edge of the Seoul Metropolitan area. The groundbreaking itself in all targeted cities seems implausible. It may sound a little weird, but we ask Roh to just talk the walk, not walk the talk.