[EDITORIALS]End the hunger strike nowVenerable Jiyul’s hunger strike against the construction of a railroad tunnel through Mount Cheonseong continues past its 100th day. She is only skin and bones, and the shadow of death hovers over her. Doctors even said, “Her body has already passed the threshold of death.” Observers now feel sorry and embarrassed.
We should no longer leave Jiyul as she is. First, the Buddhist groups to which she is affiliated should persuade her to end the hunger strike. Fortunately, the situation began to show signs of improvement yesterday.
The National Assembly’s Construction and Transportation Committee passed a resolution unanimously urging an end to the hunger strike and the launching of an examination of the tunnel construction’s effects on the environment. Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan and Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan tried to visit Jiyul.
We understand that the government is in a difficult position. It has incurred 2.5 trillion won ($2.4 billion) of losses since it suspended the tunnel construction through the mountain for 12 months. The government has so far dug 195 meters (640 feet) into the mountain.
If construction is suspended again, it is feared that other national projects, like the Saemangeum land reclamation and the construction of a nuclear waste treatment facility, may also be blocked by hunger strikes and other kinds of protests. The government should maintain the consistency of its project policies.
But what is more important than consistency is people’s confidence in government policy. The tunnel issue got worse when President Roh Moo-hyun, during his presidential campaign, pledged to suspend the tunnel construction and consider an alternate route for the railroad. Meanwhile, there are doubts about the past evaluations of environmental impact, because it was disclosed that such evaluations were not fair for the Sihwa lake project or the Saemangeum land reclamation project. Those evaluations were skewed to prove that the development was proper.
Jiyul should also open her mind. She has had success in attracting public attention to the issue, and she should now end her hunger strike. She should know that it is a misfortune for the country to solve an issue this way. The people close to her should make her stop the hunger strike right now.