Go to contents

Political Agenda vs. Practical Support

Posted October. 28, 2010 11:22,   


South Gyeongsang Province has announced that though it opposes the installation of weirs and dredging in the Nakdong River, it will not give up its right to conduct improvement works as received from the central government. When Seoul said it will consider taking back the right, the province`s governor Kim Doo-kwan said Wednesday, “If the (central) government starts steps to withdraw the right, I will prepare countermeasures including a lawsuit.” Kim apparently wants to use the project, which is going smoothly in upstream areas, for his own political purposes.

Work is underway at 18 sections of the river in the province. South Gyeongsang is conducting work at 13 sections as allowed by the central government. In July, 13 cities and counties in the province directly and indirectly involved in the project adopted a statement urging normal implementation of improvement works. In August, 10 cities and counties along the river informed the provincial government of their support for the project, including Gimhae, whose mayor is a member of the main opposition Democratic Party. Despite this, the degree of progress in the 13 sections is just 15.6 percent, or about half of the overall progress (31.4 percent) of the four-river restoration project due to non-collaboration of the province. The river improvement initiative is widely supported by residents, cities and counties of the province, so Kim’s lone opposition is akin to dictatorial behavior.

If dredging is conducted and weirs are installed only at upstream areas of the river and no work is done in downstream regions, residents in downstream districts could suffer major damage in the event of a flood. To a governor in charge of provincial administration, flood control, environmental management and efficient use of water resources are basic obligations. Amid global warming, water management is growing increasingly important, with pundits saying, “Water management in and of itself represents national competitiveness,” and declaring a “water management era.” If South Gyeongsang is opposed to the project, it is a logical course of action for it to return the right to the project’s execution to the central government. Perhaps Kim is worried over angering his constituents, who support the project, if he returns the right. He is thus trying to save face by excusing himself through his “expressed gesture of opposition” to a group of people against the project if the central government withdraws the right.

South Jeolla Province Gov. Park Joon-yung has shown proactive support for the project to restore the Yeongsan River despite opposition from the Democratic Party, of which he is a member. He also proposed to the central government the expansion of an estuary dam on the river to allow seamless passage of yachts and ferries. Though his party opposes the four-river restoration project and calls it the de facto grand canal project originally proposed by President Lee Myung-bak, Park has taken a pragmatic stance in the hope of reviving waterways of the past through which vessels loaded with fermented seafood and salt can navigate.

Special review committees for the restoration project under the governments of the two Chungcheong provinces have also displayed unclear stances toward the project, with one suggesting “particle support and partial objection” and the other “conditional support.” Cities and counties in the Chungcheong region back the project in general. South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn Hee-jung and North Chungcheong Gov. Lee Si-jong should shed their ambiguity and learn the power of a strong belief and commitment from Park.