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Gov`t Silence over Canal Project Attacks

Posted October. 21, 2010 11:24,   


Main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu urged a stop to the Lee Myung-bak administration’s touted four-river restoration project, calling it a “camouflaged” form of the president’s original plan to build a cross-country canal. Party floor leader Park Jie-won echoed Sohn by saying the project "clearly" seeks to build a grand canal. People might believe the argument has some truth to it considering the political weight of the two politicians.

President Lee has announced twice that he will not pursue the grand canal while in office. It is unclear if the opposition party refuses to believe this pledge or thinks that attacking the river project will appeal to the public regardless of whether its arguments are true. Determining whether the project is a veiled attempt to build the grand canal is also not difficult.

A key component of the grand canal project was the construction of a tunnel linking the Han and Nakdong rivers. For freight ships to sail on the rivers, locks and terminals would be needed to overcome differences in water level in the upper and lower parts of the rivers. A river depth of at least 6.3 meters is essential. Is any such construction project ongoing? Government officials should explain the river project to the public. If they remain silent in the face of strong attacks from the opposition, more people will believe that the river restoration venture is part of the canal project.

The administration’s responsibility is to convince the public how the river restoration is different from building a grand canal. President Lee should talk to Sohn, and the prime minister and Cabinet ministers should visit the sites of demonstrations or go on TV programs to explain the river project.

The project to build a tunnel to go through Mount Cheonseong on a high-speed railroad linking Seoul and Busan was suspended three times due to a Buddhist monk’s protest and a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to protect a wetland near the site. Government funds were wasted over this period. The wetland remains in good condition even after the tunnel was built, but nobody who campaigned against the work admitted the mistake or took responsibility. Those who call the four-river project part of the grand canal venture need to explain their positions after the work is completed.

The government is also responsible for more than 30 percent of the people not believing North Korea attacked the naval vessel Cheonan. The administration must work harder to fight such false rumors and theories.