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[Editorial] Let the People Decide on Sejong City

Posted November. 06, 2009 08:43,   


The slogans “The conscience of the country’s next century” and “politics of trust that keeps promises” sound great, but are just hollow rhetoric to the people. What Koreans are interested in the dispute over the Sejong City project is the pros and cons of either sticking to the original plan or revising it. They want to know what choice is the best for the estimated 70 million people on the Korean Peninsula -- 48 million in South Korea and 22 million in North Korea – and their children 10 or 50 years later.

If the Office of the Prime Minister and all government offices relocate to Sejong City as planned, does it really help other provinces – Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Gangwon, Jeju, and the Seoul metropolitan area – as well as the Chungcheong region? Can it be a self-sufficient city for 500,000 people if it becomes an administrative district as planned? Could the construction of Sejong City possibly threaten the remaining areas in Chungcheong, including Daejeon?

When the National Assembly passed the Special Act on the Multifunctional Administrative City in March 2005, Grand National Party lawmakers from the Seoul metropolitan area and from a minor group fiercely opposed the plan by holding a petition, waging protests, and going on hunger strikes. Park Se-il stepped down as chairman of the party’s policymaking committee and lawmaker. Then party leader Park Geun-hye expressed her party’s opinion of recommendable approval in support of the bill, which only changed its name from relocation to division of the capital. Was this because she stuck to principles and not because she cared about Chungcheong voters? Does a person have to keep a promise because he or she said so? Who promised it to whom?

Then why do those who want President Lee Myung-bak to keep the promise because he changed his position on Sejong City at the end of his presidential campaign are dead against his key pledge to pursue the grand canal project? Why are lawmakers who opposed the relocation of the Office of the Prime Minister, and state agencies to Sejong City among pro-Park members silent on Park’s words? What principle is it and what consistency is it?

Lee Hoi-chang, leader of the minor progressive Liberty Forward Party, criticized the Sejong City project as the Grand National Party’s candidate in the 2002 presidential election. He is now supporting the project with Democratic Party leader Chung Sye-kyun. Is this attitude that of a national leader or that of a representative of his province?

What about the “revised plan” of Sejong City of Prime Minister Chung Un-chan presented after brief comments made by President Lee on a 100-year plan for the country? Can a Sejong City powered by green growth, science, knowledge and industry create a self-sufficient brand city automatically? What happens to national efficiency and public convenience if state offices move to Sejong City? Chung said he will spend more budget on the city, but will the people agree if taxpayers’ money is spent on it? As voices pushing a revised plan calm down with Park’s comment on promise and principles, certain pro-President Lee lawmakers said it is better to stick to the original. Are they responsible ruling party lawmakers or just jumping on the bandwagon?

A responsible leader and politician should come up with a frank and clear answer to the people’s questions. He or she should not misguide the people with emotional slogans and power games. He should come up with figures on the cost and effects of both plans, and let the people choose a better option that meets national interests, taking the future of the Korean Peninsula into account.