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[Editorial] Will Sejong City Dispute Hurt Job Creation?

Posted January. 08, 2010 08:00,   


With the government’s announcement of a revised plan for the development of Sejong City, both the ruling and opposition parties are divided and their confrontation is getting more intense. Main opposition Democratic Party leader Chung Sye-kyun said, “The revised plan is a failure that is less than a tenth of the original plan, and the worst of the worst.” Lee Hoi-chang, head of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party, declared a complete rejection of the revision, saying,” The plan is fueling real estate speculation from the land supply base for Sejong City companies.” Worse, the ruling Grand National Party is divided into pro-President Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye factions, and this makes unclear whether the government can push the revised plan.

The evaluation of the revision should be based on whether it can really help national development and residents in the Chungcheong region. The attitudes of parties or leading politicians – favoring or opposing the original or revised plans to win over voters in a certain region – is a typical example of populism.

The Sejong City dispute has come this far because their political tactics – winning votes through the use of any means - came first. The plan was changed into splitting up the administrative branch because the relocation of the proposed administrative capital, an idea floated by then presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun in his campaign pledge for the 2002 presidential election, was ruled unconstitutional. Inefficiency stemming from the split-up of the administrative body and self-sufficiency has been overlooked.

Moving nine ministries, two major offices and two agencies will require just two new buildings the size of the Central Government Complex in Seoul. Merchants near the Central Government Complex in the southern Seoul suburb of Gwacheon say this will simply create a market for “lunch.”

The original plan for Sejong City envisions a city focused on administrative bodies. The revised bill prepared by the government proposes a future-oriented city that can create huge investment and employment from major companies, universities and think tanks. Investment from large companies such as the Samsung Group is expected, and prestigious universities such as Seoul National University and Korea University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology will set up campuses there. The answer is clear to the question over which will be more helpful to Chungcheong residents and the nation. Instead, Chungcheong residents should care more for the relative deprivation of people in other regions.

The controversy over Sejong City is likely to be abused for political propaganda in the run-up to the local elections in June this year. Sejong City should not become the scapegoat of political interests or fights. Above all, a consensus over the revised plan is needed between the government and the ruling party to persuade the political opposition and the public.