Posted September. 05, 2009 08:05,
Prime Minister-designate Chung Un-chan said Thursday, On the Multifunctional Administrative City (Sejong City), its hard to start again from scratch. But its also not easy to follow the original bill. On these comments, the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party and the main opposition Democratic Party have taken the offensive against the ruling camp and Chung. Opposition parties, however, should instead seek measures that consider both national interests and provincial development instead of winning votes by attacking the ruling party.
Sejong City is a multifunctional administrative city based on the administrative capital pledged by the late former President Roh Moo-hyun in his 2002 presidential campaign. Liberty Forward Party Chairman Lee Hoi-chang opposed the project when he ran against Roh that year as the candidate of the Grand National Party. Yet now, Lee says the city should be built as planned in the original draft. President Lee Myung-bak also opposed the plan while serving as Seoul mayor but did an about-face when he ran for president in 2007. The birth of the Sejong City project was partly related to politics but political and regional interests have made the debate into a hot potato.
Many experts say the project should not follow the plan in the original draft. Prime Minister-designate Chung is a native of South Chungcheong Province, but his comments should be a catalyst to spark discussion about the project. If the presidential office, the National Assembly and the judiciary remain in Seoul and other government agencies move to Sejong City as described in the original draft, administrative efficiency will weaken. The people and business will in turn suffer inconvenience and national competitiveness could fall. In that case, the city would probably become an administrative area without self-sufficient functions. In 2000, the government suggested a plan to move the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry to Busan. Even Roh, who was maritime affairs minister that year, opposed the idea, saying, Even if the ministry is moved to Busan, the minister will have to stay in Seoul.
Public opinion is even split over whether Sejong City will help residents in the Chungcheong provinces. Some in the province suggest moving companies to the new city to create more jobs. Others warn that the budget given to Daejeon and the Chungcheong provinces will decrease if the city is established.
It is too late to cancel the Sejong City project, however. The sum of 5.2 trillion won (4.2 billion U.S. dollars), or more than 20 percent of the allotted budget of 22.5 trillion won (18.1 billion dollars), has been used to purchase land and pursue the project. Nevertheless, bigger damage and serious side effects could arise if the government follows the original draft. Against this backdrop, a rational alternative is needed to give practical benefits to the people as well as the 4.8 million residents of the Chungcheong region. The government and politicians should approach the matter from a long-term perspective.