[EDITORIALS]A careless handling of historyThe Board of Audit and Inspection is conducing special audits of cultural and tourism projects on which the government has spent more than 5 trillion won ($4.3 billion) since 1999, because the programs were not carried out properly. Projects involving tourism promotion in the Baekje cultural zone, the development of Confucian cultural properties in North Gyeongsang province and the creation of a tourist zone along the southern coast were particularly rife with waste. Some public servants and contractors were involved in illegal dealings.
During the Kim Dae-jung administration, we welcomed the government’s promise to spend 1 percent of the nation’s budget on cultural projects. We anticipated a future for Korea as a tourism hub. Now we are very disappointed.
Our country is lacking in natural resources, but the tourism industry, drawing on our five thousand years of culture, is a real hope for Korea in the 21st century. Unfortunately, our precious cultural relics have been treated carelessly because of our poverty, ignorance and lack of concern. Our future will remain dark if we can see no fruitful outcomes even after spending astronomical amounts of money.
We believe the state-funded cultural and tourism projects stumbled because of faulty procedures. Before a master plan was drawn, political decisions were made, and budgets were allocated. Therefore, local governments never bothered to secure budgets on their own; they all hurried to receive the central government’s assistance.
The government’s money does not come from thin air. It comes from taxpayers’ sweat and tears. This money was distributed without the sort of proper preparation and planning that befit cultural restoration. Critics even say that some “restorations” made things worse. We would like to know whether the officials responsible were aware that cultural restoration is irreversible work.
The Board of Audit and Inspection must carry out stern audits to determine who abused and wasted state funds. Based on the audit outcomes, local government and Ministry of Culture and Tourism officials must be punished severely in order to prevent such incidents from ever occurring again.