[EDITORIALS]The Crematorium and Civic SpiritThe Seoul Metropolitan government concluded Monday that a crematorium will be built in the lower edges of Mount Cheonggye in Wonjidong, located in Seocho-gu, ending a selection process that lasted a year after the council in charge of picking the site was launched. However, Seocho-gu residents held mass protest rallies in Mount Cheonggye last Sunday and have announced they will not only hold group demonstrations but also fight in court. A stormy period is expected until the actual construction of the crematorium.
Not many people would object to our having to reform our burial culture. In actuality, the cremation rate has increased drastically recently. According to the Seoul Metropolitan government, the cremation rate among Seoul citizens stalled at 30 percent in 1996. But this year, it surpassed 50 percent and in 2005, it is expected to reach 70 percent. Vaults where ashes are kept that are provided by the city in Yongmiri, Paju and Byeokje-ri, Goyang, will have reached full capacity by March next year. Accordingly, the construction of a crematorium is something that can no longer be postponed. Nevertheless, Seocho-gu officials said, "Announcing the construction of a crematorium without consulting at all with the head of the concerned gu-office is an example of an undemocratic administrative act that violates the principle of local governments."
As already noted, we thoroughly understand the residents' concern over environmental pollution. However, they should now exercise their civic spirit. Many voices may be heard during the decision-making process, and they should be. However, once a decision has been made, even if one may hold different views, a person living in a democratic society should follow the decision and try to reduce any flaws. If physical force is mobilized to overturn the decision, it would be difficult not to criticize it as collective egoism. If legal flaws are found in the decision-making process, a lawsuit should be filed to rectify the situation.
The Seoul Metropolitan government should take the lead in alleviating residents' concerns instead of simply talking about how the new crematorium would be of the latest technology that would not cause environmental pollution. Further, it should devise support plans for the residents and precise measures to meet the concerns over traffic.