[EDITORIALS]Haste makes wasteThe outline of the government’s plan to move the administrative capital out of Seoul is unveiled. Now the grand plan of moving 85 government offices together with 23,000 employees to a new administrative capital in the Chungcheong region from 2012 until 2014 has been launched. A public hearing on it, to be opened today, will be followed by the deliberation of the plan at a committee for the new capital.
After the committee approves the plan with a majority vote, it will be finalized by the president in July. In the case of 11 constitutional organs, including the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, it is necessary to get the Assembly’s approval. Considering the composition of the 17th Assembly where the government party occupies a majority of seats, the plan seems to be an established fact.
We have repeatedly expressed worries over the government’s attitude of using blitz tactics in deciding on the plan, omitting the procedure of forming a social consensus. In Korea, in an area less than 11.8 percent of its territory, more than 47.2 percent of the population is concentrated. The concentration is higher than Japan’s 32.4 percent and France’s 18.7 percent. It is worthwhile to review not only the idea of building an administrative capital, but other ideas that will help alleviate population concentration and promote balanced development of territory. But it is not right to enforce a plan without giving people time to make judgements and take their positions on it.
The legitimacy of the plan is suspected, and an appeal to review the constitutionality of the plan was sent to the Constitutional Court. The government’s one-sided promotion is the reason behind that. Especially, while the government explained that only the administrative capital will be moved, the plan now includes important offices of the legislature and the judiciary. It is nothing but cheating the people if the plan is upgraded and expanded to one that changes the nation’s capital. In Brazil, 134 years after the law on the capital move was enacted, the actual move was decided. Compared to this, it is absurd that an administration with a five-year term decides and implements the capital move.
It is claimed that as the move was President Roh Moo-hyun’s election pledge, the procedure of getting the consent of the people is complete. But it should be noted that even among Mr. Roh’s supporters, there were many who opposed the capital move. The passage of a law at the Assembly was due to the fact that both the government and opposition parties were aware of the votes of Chungcheong people. The cost of the move was quoted as 4 to 5 trillion won ($3.4 to $4.3 billion) during the campaign, but it has swollen to 45 trillion won and even over 100 trillion won. We will suffer from a heavy defense burden arising from the reduction of the U.S. forces in Korea. How can we finance the cost for the capital move on top of that?
It is difficult to understand why the new capital should be in the Chungcheong provinces.
Considering the situation after national unification, majority opinion is against moving the capital to the south of Seoul. Some also claim that expanding the Seoul metropolitan area to the Chungcheong area is against balanced development of regions. The construction of the new capital will begin in 2007, the last year of Mr. Roh’s term. It is aimed at gaining Chungcheong votes during the presidential election in that year.
Moving the capital is a grand plan that will be handed down to our posterity. The government must collect people’s opinions on it even if it is belated. If necessary, a referendum must be held. However important it may be to solve the population concentration and promote balanced development of our territory, the capital move shouldn’t be forced.