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Flip-flopping state affairs

Posted July. 08, 2023 08:00,   

Updated July. 08, 2023 08:00


Minister Won Hee-ryong of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport recently announced the unilateral cancellation of the Seoul-Yangpyeong Expressway Project without Presidential consultation. "I'd rather bear the responsibility and cut losses now," he said, "than endure endless suspicions until my term ends." This announcement followed accusations from the Democratic Party of Korea relating to certain suspicions about the first lady, Kim Keon Hee, which Won deemed as a rallying cry to stoke public discontent.

A long-held aspiration of Yangpyeong residents for the past 15 years, the Seoul-Yangpyeong Expressway was declared a national project just six years ago. Its abrupt cancellation by the current administration's minister is akin to casually flipping one's hand over; it seemingly discards the project's history and the due diligence of previous governments. The continuity of state affairs, the welfare of invested residents, and the sentiment of the observing public seem to have been cast aside in favor of the Minister's and the President's interests.

The suspicions surrounding Mrs. Kim emerged when an alternative route for the expressway was proposed in May. From the project's initial planning stage in 2017 through to the preliminary feasibility study in 2021, the designated endpoint was always Yangseo-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun. However, it has now been shifted to Gangsang-myeon. The onus is on the authorities to provide a convincing explanation for this change, given the conflicting interests at stake, especially when Mrs. Kim's family owns land near the new endpoint in Gangsang-myeon. The government's claim that the alternative route's endpoint is not an interchange (IC) but a junction (JC), hence having minimal impact on land prices, lacks credibility, particularly considering the nearby location of the Namyangju interchange of the Jungbu Naeryuk Expressway.

Suspicions, by their nature, aren't always founded on truth, which makes it challenging to dismiss the opposition's doubts as being entirely baseless. Nevertheless, Minister Won's decision to nullify the project entirely, rather than revert to the original route, is troubling. It appears he's opted for this course to avoid conceding to the suspicions raised by the opposition, a move that unfortunately smacks of political maneuvering rather than a responsible approach to state governance.

In response to Minister Won's remarks, an official from the presidential office advised, "A wise judgment should be made after reviewing local public opinion and the necessity of the project." This lukewarm response is not encouraging, especially considering that the Seoul-Yangpyeong Expressway Project was a campaign promise of President Yoon Suk Yeol. If a minister can't even provide a convincing explanation about a route change, let alone make rash decisions like project nullification, he should be held accountable first and foremost.