[EDITORIALS]Crematorium and NIMBY NinniesStrong resistance from the residents of the communities where Seoul's first crematorium might be built has produced a roadblock to the metropolitan government's plans for the structure. The original plan was to select one place from among 13 candidates by the end of April and to begin construction with a completion goal of 2004. But when municipal and gu lawmakers, along with local governing bodies, joined the protest, Seoul put off the decision.
What local residents say most concerns them is possible environmental pollution, such as dust particles and damage to nature. They also express concern over possible traffic jams and falling land prices. A council to reform the burial culture, to which the Seoul Metropolitan government delegated the selection of the crematorium site, says that there is no need to worry about air pollution because advanced crematoriums use double combustion, complete with dust-gathering equipment. The council also said that since natural gas will be used, and not heavy fuel as in the past, virtually no smoke emission is expected.
We understand the residents' concern, but for how long are we to tolerate this typical NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) reaction? Demand for cremation has been growing with Koreans' changed thinking. The crematorium at Byeokje near Seoul has already reached its capacity, and those at Byeokje and Yongmiri will reach their limits by the end of next year. Furthermore, the amended cemetery law stipulates that each locally governed area be self-sufficient in burial space. That was why the Seoul Metropolitan Govern-ment pushed the plan to create a memorial park of 165,000 square meters equipped with 20 furnaces, 50,000 spaces and several funeral parlors for different religions.
It is regrettable that the gu offices as well as municipal and gu lawmakers are in the forefront of the opposition, conscious of votes instead of persuading the residents. In Japan, each local body worked to talk the residents into allowing crematoriums in their neighborhoods for several years in the 1980s. Now they can be found even in residential areas, and no one voices opposition.
The local bodies and lawmakers should roll up their sleeves and persuade the residents. Instead of a blind opposition, citizens should recognize the inevitability of building crematoriums in their neighborhoods and demand that realistic measures to prevent adverse effects be prepared.