[EDITORIALS]Restart the tunnel projectThe government’s uncertain stance and lack of will concerning various national construction projects, such as the Saemangeum tideland reclamation, Seoul-Busan High-speed Rail and Seoul’s beltway through Mount Bukhan, are just creating more confusion. Last weekend on an SBS TV program, President Roh said, “I offered to halt the construction of tunnels at Mount Bukhan during the election, as I wanted to avoid conflict.”
His change of mind has upset the Buddhist community, which is criticizing the president’s move as part of an election strategy. Last December, when Roh was a presidential candidate, the first thing he promised to the Buddhists was that he would reconsider the construction of tunnels through Mounts Bukhan, Cheonjeong and Geumjeong and devise alternate routes. Now, he expressed his true intentions during the TV show and although it is somewhat late, his acknowledgement of his mistake is a positive sign.
However, the president cannot delay the Mount Bukhan tunnel project any longer. The project, because of a two-year interruption, has already lost 500 billion won ($418 million). The government promised that the final decision will be made after gauging public opinion, but it went into doldrums again because of strong opposition from the Buddhist community. The companies and organizations that promised to invest in the project now have second thoughts. The Bank of Japan, which is responsible for attracting investment for the project, asked the government to notify them of a decision by the end of last month. If the government keeps delaying, more tax money will be wasted in the rising conflicts.
If national projects are delayed or halted whenever a new government comes into power, we cannot expect to have any continuity. The increased burden of the people due to the delay of major projects by the present administration is huge. The government must speed up the process of collecting public opinion and make a quick decision. If a decision gets pushed into the next year, it will be hard for the government to escape the accusation that it is not doing anything.