[EDITORIALS]Saemangeum Is No Political FootballThe dispute over the future of the Saemangeum reclamation project quieted down two years ago, but it is raging again. The government held a public discussion session about environmental evaluations, water quality and profitability Monday. Yet, it failed to narrow differences between the groups for and against the project. Some called for restarting the reclamation project, arguing that 1.3 trillion won ($1 billion) had been already poured into building 66 percent of the tide embankment and it would cost even more to take the structure down. They also emphasized that the project would bring some positive effects, such as expanding the available land and securing food. On the other hand, people protesting the project argued that it should remain suspended, considering the possible environmental damage and serious water pollution.
The government reportedly planned to have an additional discussion session this week, making a final decision at the end of this month. Some pointed that there is no need to hurry to determine the future of the project. Since it is difficult to reach a compromise through public discussion and the incomplete embankment has been eroding in the past two years, it is understandable that the government cannot postpone the decision too much longer.
However, the government's decision, whether it is for or against the project, should never be governed by the ruling party's political calculations to win votes in the upcoming elections. After the ruling party candidates lost in the by-election on April 26, the ruling party speculated that suspending the Saemangeum project caused the failure. The reclamation is an important issue for the future of our country and our descendants. Therefore, the decision whether to continue or discontinue the project should be made based on pure motives. Shortsighted political logic that "suspending the project at this point would create unfavorable conditions in the upcoming elections," should not intervene in the decision on Saemangeum. Facing the local government elections next year, politicians already appeared to have exerted pressure on the government's policymaking. The future of the Saemangeum reclamation project, at least, should never be influenced by politicians. Furthermore, the government should seek a new alternative rather than approaching the issue with two choices: either development or environmental protection.