[EDITORIALS]Avoid a repetition of Buan

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[EDITORIALS]Avoid a repetition of Buan

The selection of a location for a nuclear waste facility is back to square one with the government’s announcement of the opening of new bidding from applicants other than Buan, North Jeolla province. There is still a referendum vote by Buan residents to make the county’s opposition final, but the result is virtually assured. This is a disappointing end to a process that has been marred since July by violent demonstrations and school boycotts. All that the residents of Buan are left with is anger, pain and suffering, and the selection process is back to where it started.
Why did this happen? The government is to blame for not taking the trouble to consider the residents’ views in the beginning and trying to shove the proposal down their throats. The county’s governor filed the application to host the waste dump despite a “no” vote by the county’s assembly. The government only hurt its credibility by first offering cash compensation to the residents and then later withdrawing the offer. The government failed to take action even as Buan turned into a war zone. Different agencies had different views about whether the referendum should be held before the end of the year or in 2004, only creating the impression that the intention was just to buy time.
A number of counties have been considered possible sites for a nuclear waste facility in the past, beginning with Yeongdeok in 1986, followed by Anmyeon island in 1990, Yeong-il in 1991 and Yangsan in 1992. Obviously, the government has learned nothing from past experience. It says it is confident that the right place will be found, but there is little to back up this confidence.
The government must begin formulating a plan that will avoid a repetition of the experience in Buan. The most important part will be to keep the residents, who will feel the effects of the project, fully informed through a democratic process. A justifiable process is an important aspect of conflict resolution in a democratic government. When it is ignored, no amount of policy discussion will solve the problem. The government must remember the events in Buan as a lesson in the policy-making process.
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