[EDITORIALS]Tinkering must endAnother problem has surfaced in the construction of the Gyeongbu high-speed railroad, which has already been delayed for the last seven months. The word is out that the high-speed rail system, which is scheduled to serve the public in 2010, may face another postponement. The complication came when President Roh Moo-hyun noted at a recent joint interview with media from Busan and Ulsan that Ulsan will obviously be included as a stop along the route.
It was inappropriate for the president to weigh in on the project. Experts and government officials working on the subject have spent a long time revising the project, and the route and the number of stations have been settled. Ulsan is not on the route; construction was proceeding according to settled plans. If a station at Ulsan is added, the plans will have to be revised; then it would take another six or seven years to buy the land for the right-of-way and for the station at Ulsan and build the facilities. The addition of a station at Ulsan would add another 300 billion won ($260 million) to the project cost; all told, about 2.5 trillion won would be wasted if the project is delayed for even one year.
It has only been a week since the administration decided to continue the construction in accordance with the initial plan, which had been delayed because of the opposition to the route from environmental and Buddhist groups. And in fact, the complications all started to pile up in the first place because Mr. Roh ordered a review of the line’s route last March.
The residents of other cities along the high-speed rail have also lobbied for stations in their areas. What are they to make of the president’s remark about a station at Ulsan? And with legislative elections around the corner, suspicions of politicking arise. And how would the president manage the complaints from Ulsan if the final decision is that a station there cannot be accommodated?
This is a test of national management. We need a more thoughtful attitude from our leader. Leadership that puts the whole nation’s interests first is not easy, but will be applauded by the people.