[EDITORIALS]Hearings or propaganda?Public hearings on relocating the capital will be held in nine cities throughout the nation until July 22. The presidential committee charged with the relocation is hosting the public hearings. With the public sorely divided on the move, and a legal petition up for a full-fledged review at the Constitutional Court, these hearings will be a good opportunity for the two opposing sides to assess the merits and demerits of a new capital.
But the public hearing held two days ago in Daejeon was a disappointment. Far from being true to its name, it is said that the hearing was more like a publicity session on a government proposal. In the opening speech, one of the advisers on the committee said, “The debate whether to build a new capital is a fruitless one.” And all discussants argued for the move. Several comments verging on instigation were made. Examples: “The problem here is not the relocation but the political forces that want to make it a political agenda item and the press that glosses over the truth,” “We can make decisions, if needed, without a public consensus” and “The controversy over the relocation amounts to a lower-grade presidential impeachment.”
The Korean dictionary defines a public hearing as “a gathering where National Assembly or administrative agencies, in order to review important agenda items that require expertise and have public interest at stake, hear opinions from interested parties or from the experts in the field in an open forum.” Public hearings are held to gather the opinions and wisdom needed to make a vital decision. In that regard, the public hearing in Daejeon did not live up to its name. One resident of South Chungcheong province who attended the hearing said, “It was a government explanatory session, not a public hearing.”
President Roh Moo-hyun, two days ago, acknowledged that the public may feel that the capital relocation was not fully discussed prior to the decision, and said, “The government should try to persuade people actively on the appropriateness and necessity of the government plan from now on.” To persuade people as Mr. Roh said, the hearings should be a forum for debating both the pros and the cons of the plan. If not, don’t call these meetings “public hearings.”