[EDITORIALS]Restoring the theater

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[EDITORIALS]Restoring the theater

The old national theater in Myeongdong, central Seoul, will be reopened. The Ministry of Planning and Budget on Friday earmarked 20 billion won ($16.6 million) for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's planned purchase of the theater, half of what the Culture Ministry had requested. The budget plan has to win approval from the National Assembly.

Considering the public support of the purchase, the funding proposal will probably pass muster in the Assembly.

The Culture Ministry said it plans to renovate the building to turn it into a theater with 600 to 700 seats when it reopens in October 2005. We welcome the decision.

All the credit for the restoration of the national theater should be given to the art community, the tourism industry and Myeongdong merchants, who have shown a commitment to the plan. Although the government had decided to preserve the historic building in 1999, civic and business groups lobbied hard for the theater's restoration by holding public campaigns and appealing to the prime minister. Had they not made such consistent efforts to restore the theater, the building would not have survived.

We pay our respects to their strenuous efforts and call on the government to seek the counsel of many people for a splendid reopening of the theater. In addition to forming a committee of experts to provide advice to the government, the Culture Ministry should set up another channel -- an Internet site, for instance -- so that the general public can voice its opinions about how the theater should be operated and what programs should be put on stage. Considering that Myeongdong is frequented mostly by young people, the government should listen to their opinions so that the theater can continue to be loved by our people.

It took 27 years before the government decided to restore the national theater, which was sold in 1975. This is a clear example of how hard it is to reverse a bad decision. At this moment, a great deal of our precious cultural assets have been sacrificed by economic development.

We also urge the government to pay more attention to our cultural heritage in regions outside the capital.
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