[VIEWPOINT]A logical inconsistencyDuring the legislative election season, all the experts who opposed the plan to transfer the capital city kept their peace. They saw a danger of the issue being used politically, by taking advantage of the old structure of regionalism, as was the case in the last presidential election.
Signs that all the parties and the legislative candidates would use the transfer plan as a political strategy had begun to be spotted before the end of last year, when the National Assembly approved a special act on the construction of the new capital city.
It was agreed upon by the Grand National Party, the Millennium Democratic Party, Our Open Party and the United Liberal Democrats. An important national affair was decided at an incredible speed in the National Assembly without any hearings being held and without even a debate.
That haste arose because all the politicians were conscious of the votes in the Chungcheong pro-vinces in the approaching legislative elections.
All in all, the plan to transfer the capital did not play a prominent role in the legislative elections because of the controversy over the impeachment of the president. But if we connect the transfer plan to the impeachment, we are able to notice an interesting fact.
In the controversy over the impeachment, it is commonly said that the people’s opinion should come before the opinion of the National Assembly.
No matter whether the National Assembly passed the impeachment bill using due process or not, the impeachment is not being accepted as the will of the people. In striking contrast, it is being accepted without any question that the National Assembly’s approval of the special act on the transfer of the capital meant that a national consensus had been formed on the issue.
There is a logical fallacy in those two arguments.
Of course, one could argue that the impeachment and the transfer cannot compare in their significance. But the transfer of the capital is also a very important national project not irrelevant to the future and to the reunification of the country. If the logic that people have the right to decide for themselves on the politically motivated impeachment is justified, then they should have the right to decide on the transfer too.
The plan for the capital was as much the result of political stratagems as the impeachment was, and the people should have a direct say in the former just as much as in the latter.
Even if the transfer of the capital did not become a nationwide point of interest in the last elections, it did have an impact on the voters in the Chungcheong provinces. The candidates of Our Open Party, the party aligned with the president who originally proposed the transfer plan, and the United Liberal Democrats, a Chungcheong-based party, engaged in explicit debate as to who were the real champions of the idea.
Another fact about the issue is worth mentioning. A sense of crisis that the plan to transfer the capital would be annulled if the president were to be ousted played a major role in shaping the decision by the voters in the Chungcheong region. Ironically, this shows that the plan is of such flimsy standing that its fate is regarded as being dependent on the fate of the president.
If it were a policy based on a wide consensus of the people, it would be pursued consistently regardless of the fate of the current president and without any hindrance because of changes in the government over the next four to nine years.
Until when must such an important national project be left vulnerable to changes in politics? If the transfer of the capital is a plan worth pursuing for the next 20 to 30 years, it should receive an undeniable stamp of approval from the people so that it will not be used politically in every presidential and legislative elections to come.
The transfer played a role in the last legislative election as well as in the last presidential election. This single campaign promise worked twice for the government. Regardless of what their initial intentions were, in the end, the president and the ruling party will find it difficult to deny that they used the transfer plan as leverage in regional politics.
They should be content with having used this issue twice to their advantage. The legislative elections are over. The ball is now in the court of the president and the new government party. For the sake of a politics of coexistence benefiting the people, the government should boldly ask for the opinion of the public on the transfer. The opposition parties should also discard the lukewarm opportunistic attitude they have shown so far and state their positions clearly, leading people to make the right choice.
* The writer is a professor of environmental studies at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Choi Mack-joong