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Project to Develop Ex-Pres. Roh`s Village in Limbo

Posted April. 11, 2009 06:41,   


Major projects to set up "Roh Moo-hyun Town" in the village of Bongha in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, will be canceled or reconsidered.

The Gimhae city government and South Gyeongsang Province made the decision yesterday in the wake of the discovery that Taekwang Industry CEO Park Yeon-cha had cozy ties with former President Roh. Gimhae and the province set up a budget of 24 billion won (18 million U.S. dollars) as financial support for the village of Bongha and Jinyeong-eup, out of 54.4 billion won (40.7 million dollars) given or will be given to the area.

Gimhae announced yesterday that it will reconsider or stop all developmental activity related with Bongha. The city faces harsh criticism that it is inappropriate to allocate budget for projects related to Roh, who has been implicated in the Taekwang bribery scandal.

Accordingly, the city will bar funds to the project to establish a rice processing complex to commercialize the village`s ori rice. It will also stop a project to build an ecological parking lot, part of the Bongha village development plan.

Gimhae will stop or consider scaling down the Hwapo Creek maintenance project under which an ecological center, scenic walks and paths to observe surrounding nature were to be established. Roh has paid keen interest to the creek since he was in office.

The project to restore Roh’s birthplace near his residence will continue, however, as will construction of the public parking lot of the village.

After negotiations with Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province will also consider scaling down its support for the village. A provincial official said, “If Roh turns out to be involved in illegal activity, the Bongha village development project could face much controversy.”

A farmer living in Jinyeong-eup said, “It makes no sense that the government initially decided to allocate a large budget to a village with only 120 residents. Gimhae is rushing around only belatedly.”

Yesterday, the village was quiet but tension was growing. As news broke of Roh`s implication in murky money transactions and the arrest of Roh’s relative Yeon Chul-ho for allegedly receiving five million dollars, Roh’s allies looked busier.

Roh’s secretary with a newspaper in his hand arrived at the residence an hour early at 7 a.m. Roh’s former chief secretary Moon Jae-in also rushed there around 4 p.m. They seemed to prepare themselves for Roh`s inevitable summons.

Conservative groups such as Right Korea and an organization consisting of Koreans whose relatives died in war held a news conference in front of Roh’s residence.

They blasted Roh’s apology as a false confession and self-justification to ridicule Koreans. They flew yellow paper airplanes containing critical messages. They chose yellow since Roh has been represented by the color. An airplane said, "A hearing should be held to investigate Roh."

Roh’s secretary Kim Gyeong-su hit back by criticizing prosecutors, saying, “It`s not true that Roh received one million dollars. We suspect the real intention of prosecutors is to send the wrong messages to the media.”

The number of visitors to the village also decreased from 1,711 April 2 to 1,234 Wednesday and 1,062 Thursday.

toto@donga.com manman@donga.com