Go to contents

[Editorial] Pool Wisdom for Optimal Sejong City

Posted November. 05, 2009 08:02,   


Prime Minister Chung Un-chan yesterday said the government will form a private-public joint committee to gather opinions and prepare an alternative plan by January next year to increase the self-sufficiency function of the proposed Sejong City administrative district. President Lee Myung-bak also told Chung, “The alternative plan for the city must be more practical and beneficial (to Korea) than the original plan,” citing as criteria national competitiveness, the country’s future beyond reunification, and development of the Chungcheong region.

Chung is correct to say Sejong City will find it tough to get 100,000 residents let alone the proposed 500,000 if it is developed according to the original plan. The administrative city of Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, had a mere 60,000 residents as of 2007, and the northern Seoul suburb of Paju, also in Gyeonggi, saw its population soar by hundreds of thousands after the construction of an LCD industry cluster there. These two examples show what is more beneficial to the development of a given area.

Under the original plan for Sejong City formulated under the previous Roh Moo-hyun government in March 2005, the city will have property earmarked for self-sustaining functions accounting for just six to seven percent of the city’s territory. The plan also lacks specific measures to proactively attract corporate investment, including tax breaks and deregulation. If nine ministers, two sub-ministries and two administrative offices are relocated to Sejong City, this will effectively divide the nation’s capital, which in turn will cause administrative inefficiency and public inconvenience. Following reunification in 1990, Germany spread out government agencies between Berlin and Bonn at great cost. In light of this precedent, Korea could see the same situation with Sejong City if the Korean Peninsula is reunified.

In political circles, opinions are divided within the ruling Grand National Party, with the pro-Park Geun-hye faction supporting the original plan and the pro-Pres. Lee faction favoring revision. Rival parties are also fighting over the plan, and the public could also begin a debate. If Sejong City turns into a subject of power struggles, discussions on the matter will never go smoothly no matter what measures the government devise and present.

The government is testing the possibility of private participation in the project in the hope of building a “city of education, science and industry” centered on institutions of higher education and think tanks rather than administration. A proposed alternative plan seeks to satisfy the Chungcheong region by investing more than the scheduled 22.5 trillion won (19 billion U.S. dollars), including 8.5 trillion won (7.194 billion U.S. dollars) from the state budget, set in the original plan. If the government supplies land it has developed at a lower price and deregulates investment conditions, private organizations will be encouraged to participate in the project on their own.

To build a Sejong City that gives practical benefits to the Chungcheong region and contributes to national development, people from all walks of life must pool their wisdom to devise an optimal alternative plan through discussion and persuasion. The political circles must also end their destructive debate and allow the government to come up with a well-conceived plan before discussing an optimal measure to resolve the matter.