[EDITORIALS]Good start on projectsAlthough it is somewhat late, President Roh Moo-hyun has done well in meeting Venerable Beopjeon, the supreme patriarch of the Buddhist Jogye order, to ask for understanding in efforts to construct a tunnel through Mount Sapae in Uijeongbu, Gyeoggi province. The Buddhists, who joined with environment advocacy groups to block the construction, decided to ease their opposition in compliance with Mr. Roh’s sincere request. President Roh should exert his efforts in other projects, such as the Saemangeum tideland reclamation and the construction of a nuclear waste dump, before it is too late.
Although Mr. Roh’s visit was a turning point in the project to build a tunnel through Mount Sapae, the process itself was filled with problems. There is no escaping from the fact that President Roh approached the national project with the intention of gaining a political advantage. In December 2002, when the presidential election was pending, President Roh visited the headquarter of the Jogye order and pledged to reconsider the construction of tunnels through Mounts Bukhan, Cheonjeong and Geumjeong and find alternate routes. The pledge was intended to win votes from Buddhists without examining its practicability, as he later admitted. Now reneging on his pledge has weakened the people’s confidence in the administration’s ability to manage state affairs.
It is lamentable for the president to change his positions on managing national projects that should proceed carefully. The shaky attitude of the government has caused an estimated 500 billion won ($418 million) of losses in the suspension of the tunnel construction. The government also suffered the indignity of receiving a ultimatum from a Japanese bank, which planned to finance the project, to tell them whether the project was on or off.
Incompetence in dealing with social conflict was apparent in the handling of the Saemangeum land reclamation project and the construction of a nuclear waste dump.
The administration should stop wavering when it decides what to do, although it should try to reach a consensus. Conflict over national projects harms the nation’s strength.