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[Editorial] Alternative Sejong City Plan

Posted November. 17, 2009 08:41,   


The government held yesterday the first meeting of a private-public sector joint committee on Sejong City chaired by Prime Minister Chung Un-chan. Thus, it began discussion on an alternative plan for the development of the administrative city. Chung presented as the basic direction for an “alternative” Sejong City” the creation of an economic hub “to where money and companies flock, and a high-tech mecca where science and technology harmonize with education and culture to turn imagination into reality.”

The government has begun the process for a fundamental remodeling of the project. Sejong City was first initiated as the campaign pledge of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun in the 2002 presidential election. Of the funds allocated for the project, 5.4 trillion won (five billion U.S. dollars) of the 22.5 trillion won (19 billion dollars) budget has been spent. The money, however, has gone only to pay for appropriated land and establish infrastructure. When metaphorically compared to a painter, this project is in a situation in which the painter has set up a canvas, but wonders what to draw.

Most experts agree that dividing the location of central government agencies between Seoul and Sejong City decreases administrative efficiency, and is not helpful to the development of the Chungcheong region. The issue is not a matter just for this particular region, but has turned into a national agenda to determine the fate and future of this country. Now is the time for concerned parties to shelve demonstrations or street rallies, and wait to see what new blueprint the government and the private-public sector joint committee will come up with.

The remaining challenges are drafting a blueprint designed to help develop the region instead of relocating government agencies and then persuading Chungcheong residents. President Lee Myung-bak should not just leave this issue on the shoulders of Prime Minister Chung, and instead must push for an “alternative” Sejong City in that the issue will determine Korea’s future. As Seoul mayor, Lee opposed the relocation of the administrative capital and the construction of Sejong City. But as a presidential candidate, he said “The city’s construction must proceed as planned.” Though belated, he must tell the truth on why Sejong City cannot be built as an administrative city. He must also explain why he pledged to implement the original development plan in his presidential campaign, and issue a public apology.

He should say whether investing physical and human capital worth billions of dollars in Sejong City is a rational distribution of national resources that guarantees success, and how the project will help develop this nation beyond the Chungcheong region.

An “alternative” Sejong City must be carefully and precisely designed to ensure that it become a well-organized upscale city that maximizes massive investment. If the government is to attract universities and companies to the city, it must present a grant vision convincing enough to encourage them to voluntarily move to the city.

If the alternative city plan falters, the Lee administration could turn into a lame duck early. For the country’s future, it is undesirable for the government to be put on shaky ground due to Sejong City at the halfway point or in the second half of its term. President Lee must realize that the fate of his administration and the nation hinge on the “alternative Sejong City” plan.