[EDITORIALS]Buan referendum must be fair

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[EDITORIALS]Buan referendum must be fair

A local referendum on the construction of a nuclear waste processing plant in Buan will be held tomorrow. An injunction requested by a local civic group supporting the facility and the governor of Buan to suspend the referendum was denied by the court.
Consequently, the standoff between residents opposed to the plan and the authorities in Buan, which had left the area in a virtual crisis, will reach a critical point.
The referendum has significance as the first procedure to verify the collective opinion of the residents regarding the facility. No matter how much outsiders try to persuade them that the facility is safe and that they will be financially compensated, it is ultimately up to the residents to decide whether they want it or not.
If the result of the referendum is opposition to the plan, then the government should give up the idea of Buan as the site of the facility without regret. The government has already asked other localities to submit petitions to host the facility by May, so there is no reason it has to cling to Buan.
But this is not to say that there are no problems with this referendum. The referendum law, which was passed last month by the National Assembly, will take effect July 30, so this referendum will officially be a vote without any legal effect.
Also, because the residents’ committee and a civic group who are opposed to the project are organizing the referendum, there is a possibility that the referendum would be biased against the plan to start with. In this case, those supporting the facility will not accept the result and a new conflict might arise.
Therefore, it is important that this referendum truthfully reflect the opinions of the entire population. Both sides must be given a chance to express the reasons for their opinions and the fairness of the vote must be ensured. The residents must exercise their vote in a calm and rational manner, and the procedures must be fair.
It is regrettable that a national project will be decided by a popular vote. Should such incidents be repeated, the government’s ability to pursue its policies could be seriously compromised. It must do its best to establish a democratic system of gathering public opinion at the beginning stages of a national plan.
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