[EDITORIALS]Build the train tunnelThe construction of a tunnel through Mount Cheonseong for Seoul-Busan express trains is stopped again after its resumption in November. The Ministry of Environment has yielded to the demands of environmental groups who said the environmental effects of the construction work on the ecosystem of the fauna and flora and the swampy land there should be evaluated by experts. If things go this way, it is worrisome that the environmental examination done 10 years ago would be upset, resulting in a change of route.
It is the responsibility of the government that a large scale national project is in difficulties repeatedly. If there were no error in the initial environmental evaluation and follow-up examinations, we could do without Venerable Jiyul’s fasting and the protests of environmental groups. If the government orders the construction work stopped in the absence of mistakes in the two examinations, yielding to the pressure of the groups, the government’ attitude is irresponsible. Either way, it cannot escape the responsibility of bringing about the stoppage of the construction work. In retrospect, the fact that during the presidential campaign, presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun met with Buddhists and promised to cancel the tunnel plan and study an alternative route has led the issue to develop this way.
It is worth listening to the claim of the environmentalists that Mount Cheonseong, the largest swampy land in South Korea, where more than 30 kinds of protected species, like water lizards, find shelter, should be protected. But is the government convinced that there is enough reason to stop a national project promoted after a long period of preparation? The government policy shouldn’t be shaken like this whenever small or big problems arise. If the express train route is changed now, the second stage completion, scheduled in 2010, will be possible only in 2016. How can we bear the social and economic loss of 18 trillion won ($15.6 billion) from the change?
The government must end the confusion quickly and resume the construction work. If it lets a national project adrift at the pressure of civic groups, its capability to implement policy and credibility required to maintain and develop the country will crash. Then will come more Mount Cheonseong incidents. The government must push its policy ahead with principle and confidence, persuading civic groups, religious organizations or whomever.