[EDITORIAL] Get the Priorities Straight

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[EDITORIAL] Get the Priorities Straight

The Cultural Properties Committee's deliberations on whether there are artifacts worth preserving on the site of a proposed racetrack in Kyongju, North Kyongsang province, have ended without a deci-sion. Since the wrangling over the preservation of cultural arti-facts versus the racetrack development project has been going on
now for over five years, the first meeting to resolve the issue, which opened on Jan. 16, attracted an extraordinary amount of atten-tion. Because of "a great conflict of interests," the delibera-tions were put off until February, disappointing observers.

We believe the area in question must be preserved. Already in one part of the 947,100 square meters of the construction site, 3,600 items have been unearthed in the 551 structures excavated so far, which include 47 kilns dating from the Shilla Dynasty. This land is not owned by private individuals but by the Korea Racing Association.

Those promoting the racetrack point out that "no matter where you dig in Kyongju, you find artifacts," but a set of 65 kiln sites dating from the Kingdom of Shilla to Unified Shilla, many with the kilns themselves still preserved, is no ordinary find. Repaying the 30 billion won ($23.4 million) that has been invested in buying land to expand the racetrack site and spending the 8 billion won
required to restore the land and wooded areas damaged by earthwork would be a considerable burden on the national treasury, but in comparison to the amounts spent in the Pungnap area of Seoul, where the government had paid compensation for private assets, the Kyongju site would be a relatively minor expenditure.

The biggest point of contention is the local economy. The racetrack would have a capacity of 10,000 and would generate 50 to 60 billion won in tax revenues annually, of which 30 percent would go to the city of Kyongju.

The expectations of the people of the region are not something that can be treated lightly. However, the high-speed railroad, which would be part of the infrastructure needed to keep the racetrack busy, has been rerouted so that it will not pass through Kyongju after all, making doubtful if the racetrack can live up to earlier
expectations. Too few relics of the Korean people's millennia of existence remain intact as it is. Preserving for the world the city that was Korean capital for nearly a thousand of those years is surely the worthier of these two causes and will prove to be a greater gain for the regional economy in the long run.
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