[FORUM]Rich vs. poor in the capital

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[FORUM]Rich vs. poor in the capital

The people of this age cannot live in quietness. They cannot avoid tumult when the discourse on state affairs is national restructuring, government reform, a shift in power, disintegration, and reform. It is inevitable when President Roh Moo-hyun’s ambition is bolder than Kim Young-sam’s or Kim Dae-jung’s. The two previous presidents couldn’t dream of moving the capital.
The Roh administration’s management skill in this political situation is to divide the people into sides. When its policy goes wrong, the administration divides them into enemies and allies and presses the opponents. It armors its side with the image of the good, mistreated and weak. It criticizes the other side as evil, tyrannical, and strong. To maximize the effect, it needs a fierce confrontational front. It mobilizes unreserved language to provoke opponents. This method displayed its power in the presidential impeachment. If the administration keeps forming a gang, the people’s hearts will become violent.
Opponents of the capital move are uncomfortable because President Roh defined their opposition as a new impeachment movement against him. The Uri Party’s floor leader Chun Jung-bae supported Mr. Roh by saying, “The motives of the wealthy, upper class in the metropolitan area are to protect their vested interests.” Concerning the move, he has come up with a confrontational mode of the rich versus the poor in addition to pro-Roh versus anti-Roh.
Will the mode of breaking a political deadlock by dichotomy also work for the controversy over the capital move? Upon this depends the property and interests of individual people. This is different from the presidential impeachment, in which political ideology and inclination took priority. The mode will not work easily now.
There is a point in arguing that building owners in central Seoul and high-class condominiums in Gang-nam are opponents. But if these prices fall with the move, so will the housing prices in newly planned cities in the suburbs of Seoul and Gangbuk. The wealthy in luxury condominiums would be damaged, but the sense of loss from the lower prices will be felt more seriously by the owners of low-priced apartments. If the educational environment deteriorates, ordinary people will be the first to be hit.
The wind of speculation blows in the Chungchung provinces. Land speculation can be engaged in only by those who have money in Seoul. Those wealthy people Mr. Chun designated as opponents are making profits from speculation. Therefore, dividing people with economic and social status is not persuasive.
The governing party says “the debate is over” because the law on the capital move was approved by the last National Assembly. Amid the controversy over the impeachment, the Assembly was an embodiment of evil to the Uri Party. Now it protects the law passed by the 16th Assembly as inviolable. Many people are confused. To secure a majority of supporters for moving the capital, the party must produce a large number of two-faced people. To those who value a cause, acting as a Jekyll and Hyde is painful.
Most people noticed the government’s mode of divide and conquer. Haven’t our people undergone ups and downs of political turmoil? The public shows no interest because the party tries to play the same trick that was effective in the impeachment.
When the law on the capital move passed at the end of last year, most people thought lightly of it. They just thought a new government complex like Gwacheon would be built. But it turned out to be a grand construction project of moving not only the Blue House but also the Assembly and the Supreme Court. They can’t help focusing their attention on this important matters. Only now do they begin to examine money, housing prices and children’s education and voice their opinions.
It is upsetting that the party should ignore the opposition, insisting that the conclusion is reached. The people wouldn’t have been mistaken if the law was named frankly the law on the “new capital” instead of “administrative” capital. Would the people have paid proper attention to this issue when they had a more difficult time than during the financial crisis? Dividing people into pros and cons is cruel when people’s lives rest on the move. Even now the government should prepare a discussion forum to listen to the people’s bitter counsel, worries and opposition.

* The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of political news of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Park Bo-gyoon
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