[EDITORIALS]A blow for cremationPlans for the construction of a cemetery with a crematorium at Wonji-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul have come to a halt again. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is promoting a plan to build a national medical center and 11 incinerators in the park by 2010. A court recently cleared the way for construction, dismissing a case filed by residents of the Seocho district to ban the construction.
But the Ministry of Construction and Transportation said that it could not accept the local government’s plan. It said that it had lifted greenbelt development restrictions on the area for the sake of the construction of the cemetery park, but it had never been consulted about a plan to build a hospital there as well. If the current situation continues, Seoulites will have difficulties in cremating their deceased by 2010, when the municipal cremation facilities at Paju, in northwest Seoul, are expected to reach their capacity.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is the most responsible for the problem. The former mayor of Seoul was determined to build the facility in Wonji-dong, saying that he would move his official residence to the neighborhood of the park in order to wipe out the bad image of a crematorium. But the current mayor, Lee Myung-bak, pledged to reduce the scale of the facility during his election campaign last year to win the votes from Seocho residents.
The city government, that wasted time without trying to win over residents and raised a hospital building plan without consulting the Construction Ministry, deserves criticism. The ministry is well within its right to reject the construction of a hospital in the area because it waived greenbelt restrictions to provide the location for the crematorium.
But the Construction Ministry must recognize that the city government proposed the construction of a medical center in a cemetery park as a desperate measure to persuade residents to allow the project to go ahead. And it worked: The hospital proposal was welcomed by most residents there. If the plan fails due to the ministry’s objection, chaos over cremation will be next. The government must decide projects on a long-term basis.