[EDITORIALS]Think Again on Incheon Land

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[EDITORIALS]Think Again on Incheon Land

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry recently said that it plans to press ahead with its initiative to develop reclaimed land around Incheon as an "agricultural city." Half the area would be turned into farmland and half into a commercial zone. But there are too many problems to implement the project as initially planned. It is hard to understand why the government changed its original land usage plan, which was for farming only. The "agricultural city" scheme does not seem feasible.

Government policies are required to be consistent, which this project is far from. The government argued that using the Gimpo land, as the area is known, as farmland would be unprofitable and counterproductive to agricultural policies aimed at coping with the expected outcome of the new world trade negotiations.

But the government ignored a request from Dong-Ah Construction Co. two years ago to allow commercial development when Dong-Ah, the developer of the land, faced bankruptcy. Now that the government has bought the land from Dong-Ah, it has changed its tune.

Equity with other reclaimed land is also an issue. Last summer, the government resumed the Saemangeum reclamation project after a two-year hiatus, and stressed the importance of adding farmland. We also wonder how the government would respond to the owners of reclaimed land in Seosan, South Chungcheong province, and Saemangeum, South Jeolla province, if they ask for the same changes.

The government's idea is to develop about half the land for rice farming and the rest for tourism, logistics and high technology industries. But the new development plans overlap with those of neighboring areas. The Incheon city government is also reclaiming land around Songdo to build a new satellite city, which could develop into a center for high technology and international finance, taking advantage of its location close to the international airport. If Gimpo is to be developed for similar purposes, Incheon city's investment in the Songdo project would be harmed. It is understandable that the Incheon city government demanded that the central government reconsider the development to avoid that overlap.

The Gimpo land project has been under way for over 20 years, and there is a huge amount of money sunk in it now. The financial interests are still snowballing, and so the Agriculture Ministry is under heavy pressure to address the issue as soon as possible. The ministry cannot refute the criticism that it is hurrying to resolve the issue as soon as possible - "hastily" is a good word - disguising its plans with a fancy name like "agricultural city."

Because of its location and the change in the agricultural environment in Korea, there are better ways to develop this land. The important thing is to make good plans and carry them out.

The Gimpo land is geographically close to China. The ministry should think about linking the use of the land with the emerging China market.

We also suggest the ministry use the land as a production base for flower exports. We would like to stress that the project should not be addressed at just the ministerial level, but at the national level. However desperate the necessity of land development, makeshift plans will only cause bigger problems.

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