[EDITORIALS]Don’t rush to move capitalThe government has announced “A Draft Plan for a New Administrative Capital,” which envisions creating a capital with a half-million people in the Chungcheong provinces by 2030. Not only central government offices but other important institutions, such as the National Assembly, Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and National Election Commission would move to the new capital.
The population density of the Seoul metropolitan area is at a critical point. Though Seoul takes up only 11.8 percent of the nation, 47.2 percent of the population lives here. Compared with other capitals ― Tokyo’s 32.4 percent, Paris’ 18.7 percent, Taipei’s 14.5 percent and London’s 12.2 percent ― Seoul tops the list. We need a remedy, and a new capital could surely be an alternative.
But moving a capital is a historic event that cannot be decided only because the president made it an election campaign pledge. Opposition will not be that easy to overcome. Critics will question whether moving is the only solution to population density; considering the hope of unification, whether it is right to build a new capital; and whether moving it from Seoul, which has 500 years of history behind it, is even necessary.
One big flaw in the plan is that it was politically motivated to get votes from the Chungcheong provinces. During last year’s election campaign, Roh Moo-hyun promised to pick a new capital site by Feb. 24, 2004, but the government now presents a different timetable. It wants to announce candidate sites in the first half of 2004 and decide on the site in the latter half. Considering that the elections are in April, the plan deserves criticism as an obvious scheme for votes.
During the presidential election, it was claimed that the move would cost a mere 4 to 6 trillion won, but now that figure is 45 trillion. What happens if the administration that follows Mr. Roh’s decides not to move? We have seen before how the government has gotten itself into trouble by spending huge amounts after making a rash decision. Building a new capital is not something that should be rushed. Seeking a national consensus is the first thing that needs to be done.