Controversies surrounding the South Korean government’s potential retreat from its pledge are growing as the government announced last Tuesday that a master plan for its pledge to redevelop first-generation new cities, such as Bundang, Ilsan, and Pyeongchon, will be established in 2024. As the master plan contains the overall development directions of the cities, reconstruction will be delayed if the development of the master plan is pushed back. Local residents are upset, saying that they trusted the government’s pledge for quick redevelopment and feel betrayed now. The issue might also become a political battle as the opposition party called it the government’s withdrawal of its pledge and Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Won Hee-ryong criticized the opposition party’s statement as an irresponsible incitement.
First-generation new cities, which have 300,000 homes built in the 1990s, have a growing number of decrepit buildings that are 30 years or older. However, the cities are restricted by the regulation on floor area ratio of the district-unit plan. As then-presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to introduce a special law earlier this year, expectations for reconstruction in the cities grew. However, as the presidential transition committee announced at the end of April that the plan for the first-generation new cities would be examined as a mid- to long-term initiative, controversies about the retreat from the pledge first emerged. At the time, the committee addressed the controversies by saying that it would be implemented smoothly without providing a detailed explanation. A member of the committee also said in early May that how to develop the cities would be ideated later this year or next year through a master plan. It was a comment that could be interpreted as the master plan would be developed later this year or next year but its exact meaning was not specified.
As the controversies reemerged with the announcement last week, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said on Friday that it is a matter that should be understood by citizens. The controversies further grew with his comment asking for one-sided understanding without providing any detailed context or explanation. Choi Sang-mok, the chief economic secretary of the presidential office, emphasized that completing the development of the master plan by 2024 is a very fast schedule. The residents’ opposition is the result of the government going back and forth and providing only vague explanations on the sensitive pledge.
The redevelopment of the first-generation new cities is an interest of all citizens that affect not only the local residents but also the real estate market nearby. If the government forcefully carries on with the plan to fulfill the presidential pledge, it could cause more adverse effects. Ambiguity will only grow conflicts. The government should apologize to citizens and ask for their understanding with a realistic plan if there was any misunderstanding during the implementation of a pledge of if a pledge became unfeasible. People are feeling angry towards not only the government’s pledge retreat but also its attitude to not acknowledge a problem.