[VIEWPOINT]Looking at the capital moveThe capital transfer is a hot issue. President Roh Moo-hyun told his cabinet on Tuesday, “I ask you to take special care to accomplish the plan, even by staking the fate of the government on it.” The president then added, “It was publicly pledged during the presidential election, the related law passed the National Assembly with a majority of votes, and the ruling party won the legislative elections. I feel that it has been sufficiently evaluated by the people.”
It is President Roh’s opinion that moving the capital is the only solution to prevent population concentration in the metropolitan area and for the balanced development of provincial regions. However, he does not have a prescription to prevent inefficiency and high costs in the plan. I would like the government to examine the points below and make a chart to see how much they score in each section. The point is to evaluate whether or not the transfer of the capital is actually needed.
First, the main reason the government claims for the transfer is that the metropolitan area is getting too densely populated. But it is hard to ignore doubts about how many people will leave Seoul if a new capital city for 500,000 people has been built. A few years ago, when some government offices moved to Daejeon, only 30 percent of the civil servants who moved went with their families. They said that it was difficult for their family members to change schools, jobs or places that had been part of their lives, so most of them left their family members behind. This will be the case again. According to a report by the Seoul Development Institute, which is against the transfer, only 117,000 people will be moving to the Chungcheong provinces, including the 25,200 public servants that will move to the new capital.
Second, the competitiveness of a country comes from the competitiveness of its cities. New York, Tokyo, Singapore, London and Shanghai are all examples of economically competitive cities. There is a need to examine whether Seoul will lose its competitiveness because of the move. Bonn lost its reputation overnight when the capital was moved to Berlin, and although Berlin seemed to strengthen the administrative functions for a while, soon the power of Berlin faded, too. Is making Seoul an economic and cultural city like New York and the new capital a city of politics actually a good idea?
Third, the environmental problems in Seoul were another reason for the transfer of the capital. But the government needs to note the opinions of environmental specialists who say that auto emissions are a greater problem than its overpopulation.
Fourth, only the Chungcheong provinces will benefit, not the Gyeongsang, Jeolla and Gangwon provinces. The administration should stop repaying the Chung-cheong provinces for their votes in the presidential election.
Fifth, is it really sensible to transfer the capital while we are in preparation for unification with North Korea? Seoul is obviously the best place to manage both the North and the South, as it is in the middle of the nation.
There might be many others to check. I want to stress that cool-headed analysis aiming at profit is wiser than checking people’s minds with a national referendum. I want to ask the government to make a balance sheet, showing clearly whether there are more advantages or disadvantages to the transfer of the capital. I mean to discuss it in a cool and reasonable way, as is the case with other state affairs.
* The writer is the managing director of the JoongAng Daily.
by Shin Joong-don