[EDITORIALS]A road too often taken

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[EDITORIALS]A road too often taken

Heated debate is raging over the feasibility of a plan to build a national road, including bridges, to connect islands between Mokpo and Sinan. The road is supposed to pass the birthplace of President Kim Dae-jung on Haeuido Island. The opposition party has asked to abolish the "pork barrel" project.

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation designated the corridor between Mokpo and Sinan as a candidate for a national road after being asked by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to extend Route 2 to boost tourism in the southwestern regions. Of course actual construction would take many years to get under way. The plan could also be defeated in a priority battle over planning and budgeting.

But we have a problem with the Construction Ministry; it has not disclosed officially such a plan. According to an estimate by the Sinan-gun office, the road would cost 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion), although only 30,000 residents would benefit from the road. The government tried to justify the plan by calling it a long-term blueprint, but clearly the plan is inefficient investment.

The Millennium Democratic Party said that its president, Han Hwa-kap, and Sinan-gun have been pushing the plan to build a sprawling resort complex in the region. In other words, the road was not planned because of the president's birthplace. But we are not convinced that the area should be the first developed in the south coast region. We wonder if environmental considerations were adequately considered with the plan to connect the scenic islands. We have seen many cases where road construction was planned based not on the project's own merits but on political considerations. A new president would often mean a road near his birthplace.

The islands around the south coast are tourist spots that we can be proud of. We should come up with a comprehensive plan to develop the south coast first before we consider how to develop the islands or the president's birthplace. That is the order of planning. We cannot help but suspect politics is involved in the road construction plan since a comprehensive program for the south coast has not been presented. The plan to build the road should be canceled. A comprehensive development plan for the south coast should take precedence.

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