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[Editorial] Resolve Sejong City Debate Now

Posted September. 24, 2009 08:33,   


In his two-day confirmation hearing that lasted through early yesterday morning, Prime Minister-nominee Chung Un-chan stuck to his opinion that Sejong City will result in administrative inefficiency and needs revision. He implied that the government should face reality. Even if 13 government agencies including nine ministries are transferred to Sejong City, the city cannot perform its due role without self-sufficiency, he said. Lawmakers from the Chungcheong region belonging to the main opposition Democratic Party and the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party have joined civic organizations in holding rallies to urge the implementation of the original plan and withdraw Chung’s nomination.

Chung’s opinion on the project could result in his failure to be confirmed as prime minister, but his criticism has drawn public interest to the subject. It is small consolation that Chung, who will lead the Lee Myung-bak administration’s second Cabinet and support centrist and pragmatic policies, makes the Sejong project a subject for national discussion.

The project can be understood as a part of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s proposal of moving the administrative capital. When running for president in 2002, Roh pledged to move the capital out of Seoul. After the Constitutional Court ruled that the proposal was unconstitutional, his administration renamed the project to “construction of an administration-centered comprehensive city.” The then opposition Grand National Party also supported the proposal to win votes in the Chungcheong region. Political parties failed to thoroughly discuss the issue, which is closely related to the nation’s efficiency, but unconditionally supported the proposal to win more votes.

Ruling party floor leader Ahn Sang-soo played down Chung’s stance, saying, “It is only Chung’s personal opinion. The prime minister only supports the president and cannot pursue his own opinion different from the president’s.” Ahn apparently tried to ignore the proposal of certain ruling party members who say the project should be partially revised. Aware of by-elections Oct. 28 and local elections in June next year, Ahn seems to be avoiding offending the sentiment of Chungcheong residents.

Chung, who had never mentioned the project before his nomination, unexpectedly began suggesting an alternative in a news conference on his nomination. So some lawmakers say Chung might have discussed the issue with the government before his nomination, but the presidential office denies this. While running for president, President Lee Myung-bak also promised to establish Sejong City as initially planned to win over Chungcheong residents. His administration, however, is not free from worry that Sejong City will make national administration inefficient. If Chung is confirmed by the National Assembly and is officially sworn in as prime minister, the government should begin discussing what measures are in the best interests of the nation and Chungcheong residents.

The Sejong City project is related to Korea’s future. The government should not delay its responsibility of suggesting reasonable alternatives and persuading the people. The second Cabinet of the Lee administration is responsible for collecting diverse opinions and ending political bickering and wasteful debate over the project.