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Dispute Over Sejong City Could Split Ruling Party

Posted November. 02, 2009 08:15,   


○ Pro-Pres. Lee group urges wait-and-see stance

The leadership of the ruling Grand National Party has avoided giving an official reaction to the dispute over the Sejong City administrative district project. Party chairman Chung Mong-joon and floor leader Ahn Sang-soo had only repeatedly emphasized sticking to the original plan as the party’s platform before last week’s by-elections.

Party spokesman Cho Hae-jin told reporters yesterday, “If the government proposes an alternate plan, we will carefully examine it, and gather opinions within the party to figure out which plan serves the best interests of the Chungcheong region and the country.”

“The party’s general stance is to wait and see the government’s plan first.”

Attention is thus being drawn to today’s closed breakfast meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and Chung, since the two could discuss the Sejong project. This is the first time the two men will hold a closed meeting without disclosing the topic.

Spokesman Cho said, “(The Sejong project) is a matter of keen interest, and they will not likely skip it,” adding, “I expect Chairman Chung will brief the president on the party’s general stance.”

Pro-Lee lawmakers who insist on a revision to the project are resisting former party chief Park Geun-hye’s support of the original plan.

Rep. Lim Dong-kyu, who submitted a revision bill to the Sejong district act, said yesterday, “The original Sejong act had been rejected at the Grand National Party’s general meeting in March 2005, but the party leadership at that time consulted with the opposition in conjunction with a bill on reform of private educational foundations.”

“President Lee won the presidential election by five million votes through a campaign pledge on a cross-country canal system, but is unable to implement the policy at present.”

Lim also took issue with Park’s statement that the Sejong project is a “promise with the public.”

Rep. Cha Myung-jin also said, “Now is not the time for party factions to exchange verbal attacks as if staging a war of nerves over an abstract plan. Instead, we should let the public decide on a specific alternative plan prepared by the government.”

In contrast, a first-term lawmaker with the pro-Lee group from Gyeonggi Province said, “If the Sejong district issue is not coordinated within the ruling camp and is disputed, it will inevitably become a matter of choice between the original and revised plans. If this happens, those who pursue revision could lose ground.”

○ Pro-Park faction urges keeping of ‘public promise’

Lawmakers with the pro-Park group expressed discontent over Prime Minister Chung Un-chan and the pro-Lee group. One pro-Park lawmaker angrily said, “The party failed in the October by-elections because the Sejong city dispute surfaced, but is not reflecting on it.”

Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, Park’s de facto spokesman, said, “The Sejong district project bill was enacted through deep consideration and massive debate between the ruling and opposition parties for dozens of months, and we want to ask when Prime Minister Chung took his position.”

“The prime minister said he will propose a plan, but is trying to break the promise with the public even before developing his own ideas.”

Rep. Kim Sung-dong of the pro-Park group said, “After the Grand National Party failed in two presidential elections, the Sejong district bill was passed due to a sense of urgency that the party cannot regain power amid the coalition between the Jeolla and Chungcheong provinces.”

“It’s not right for Prime Minister Chung to try to approach the issue only from the perspective of functionality and efficiency without understanding the background.” Kim said. “It won’t be too late if the government takes steps for a revision if Chungcheong residents demand a change recognizing the lack of benefits only from mere relocation of government agencies.”

Many lawmakers also complained of discussions spearheaded by Chung without devising a practical solution. A pro-Park group lawmaker said, “Unlike the media reform bill, opposition parties have a united front on the Sejong project, and it is practically impossible to get a revision bill passed amid differing views within the ruling party.”

“With heads of provincial and municipal governments in Chungcheong having their hair cut in protest and lawmakers from the region threatening resignation, is it possible to pass a revision bill?”

The lawmaker added, “It is procedurally wrong for Prime Minister Chung to express his personal views without having a public debate.”

○ Opposition strongly opposed to revision

The main opposition Democratic Party is stepping up efforts to push for the project in line with the original plan, following its victory in a constituency in the Chungcheong region in last month’s by-elections. With Chungcheong residents demonstrating their sentiment in support of the original plan in the by-elections, rival parties seem poised to push for the project`s original plan.

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun visited the leaders of the party’s Gongju and Yeongi County chapters, who are on hunger strikes to urge the implementation of the original plan, and the heads of the party’s Buyeo and Cheongyang chapters.

Chung said, “The Lee administration and the Grand National Party are cowardly and unjust,” adding, “President Lee instructed the prime minister instead of coming forward himself, dividing public sentiment and perplexing the region. This is clearly wrong.”

“Overturning everything just because of the inauguration of a new president is not democracy,” Chung Sye-kyun said. “We will exert every effort to block attempts to transform the administrative district.”

Earlier in the day, he blasted President Lee in a news briefing, saying, “Appointing a prime minister hailing from the (Chungcheong) region and trying to nullify the Sejong project through the prime minister’s words and deeds is a cowardly and crude act.”

Ahn Hee-jeong, a member of the Democratic Party’s supreme council who accompanied Chung to South Chungcheong Province, said, “If the Grand National Party and the Lee administration attempt to revise the Sejong district bill, they will face a major crisis.”

The Democratic Party will also raise the issue as a major agenda at the National Assembly. Party floor leader Lee Kang-rae, who will deliver a speech for his party as a political bloc Wednesday, will reportedly blast the government’s bid to change the original bill.

The emergency countermeasure committee of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party called as “10 Adversaries of Sejong” 10 ruling party lawmakers who proposed a revision to the Sejong bill, beefing up an offensive against the ruling camp.

The conservative party is considering a massive rally primarily in the Chungcheong region, and is poised to stage a campaign to drum up support for its stance.

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