The Yeongsan River in the country`s southwestern region starts from Yongchu Peak in Damyang County, South Jeolla Province, and eventually flows into the port city of Mokpo. The river has served as a vital waterway for fishermen and houses Korea`s lone lighthouse, Yeongsanpo. Past records show that tides flooded inland areas of Gwangjus Hanam district and Jangseong and Hwasun counties. South Jeolla Gov. Park Joon-yung and Gwangju Mayor Park Gwang-tae promised residents to restore the inland waterways of the river in an apparent attempt to restore its history and culture and revive an area long suffering from diminishing water and perennial contamination.
Shim Myung-pil, head of the Office of National River Restoration, said Friday, We`re examining ways to expand the river mouth from six meters to 20-30 meters so that cruise ships and yachts can sail through the river. A wider waterway will allow a 2,000 to 3,ooo-ton ship to run 49 kilometers upstream from Yeongsan and Yeongam lakes to the Juksan reservoir. Gov. Park asked the government to build the waterway to nurture the Yeongsan River into a tourism and leisure hub."
The main opposition Democratic Party and environmental groups oppose the project, calling it the grand canal project proposed by President Lee Myung-bak in disguise. A former lawmaker for the Democratic Party, Gov. Park faced losing the party`s nomination because he agreed to revival of the Yeongsan River. He said, however, The waterway is needed at least for cruise ships and yachts to sale through. This will not only restore the waterway but also cut costs for the four-river restoration project. This has been a long-time dream of residents. He said the river project is different from that of the grand canal, in which large cargo ships run. His comments are in stark contrast to actions by South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Doo-kwan, who formed a committee to oppose the restoration project in August.
The government has been too passive on this issue. It has wasted time struggling with opposition forces like the Democratic Party, which said bad crops in the river project`s highlands raised cabbage prices. Seoul must quickly decide whether to give up the waterway over criticism that it is the grand canal project in disguise or side with the residents and push it through.
Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)