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[Editorial] Revision of Sejong City Plan

Posted November. 28, 2009 01:32,   


President Lee Myung-bak yesterday said revising the construction plan of Sejong City, an administrative district, is inevitable in the live TV program “Talk with the President.” He expressed regret over not being able to keep his promise of building Sejong City as planned made in his 2007 presidential campaign and after his inauguration. Since he directly addressed the issue, revising the plan has become an urgent national agenda. Controversy might be inevitable since a large-scale national project will undergo change, but this should lead to a resolution that helps both the Chungcheong region and the country as a whole with productive discussion rather than energy-consuming dispute.

The idea for Sejong City came from political interests rather than the necessity of the city from the start. Even from the perspective of easing the congestion in the Seoul metropolitan area and balanced regional development pressed for by the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, the Sejong City plan got off to the wrong start. Achieving the goal of an administration-centered city is unprecedented in the world. If the idea is implemented as planned, few will live in the city. Many experts say Sejong City cannot even attract 100,000 much less 500,000 residents or function as self-sufficient city.

Moreover, the government did not consider the consequences of the plan – wasting administrative resources as a result of splitting the capital; undermining the ability to deal with a national emergency; a fall in national competitiveness; and changes to the situation after Korean reunification. If a better alternative can achieve balanced regional growth, there is no reason to stick to the original plan for Sejong City. The focus of the discussion should be on how to make the city self-sufficient, promote the development of the Chungcheong provinces, and contribute to balanced land development.

If necessary, the government needs to draw a new plan from the ground up from the use of land to deregulation and tax benefits. Yet also important is not to give other regions disadvantages or reason to complain over reverse discrimination in the process. Even if the revision of the Sejong City plan is inevitable, it cannot be implemented without public support. The first thing needed is an agreement from the pro-Park Geun-hye group in the ruling Grand National Party, the main opposition Democratic Party, and Chungcheong residents.

In a reversal of a decision by the previous administration, the National Assembly passed the bill with the support of both the ruling and opposition parties. The president’s promise to implement the plan is a matter of trust. If he does nothing about it because of criticism and political disadvantages, however, he is unfit to serve as president. The Sejong City dispute clearly shows how dangerous it is to make unrealistic promises and how one should pay for the consequences. There should be no repeat of this kind of mistake.