[VIEWPOINT]Another bad idea for the capital

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[VIEWPOINT]Another bad idea for the capital

The National Assembly is repeatedly committing unworthy acts. It seems as though it was just yesterday that the Assembly’s special bill that would have moved the capital was declared unconstitutional. But now, the governing and opposition parties have reportedly come to an agreement on a bill that would split the nation’s capital into two.
Apparently, they insist that this bill is not unconstitutional because it would leave the Blue House, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court in Seoul. But if most ministries are to be moved, obviously it will mean dividing the capital.
If moving the capital would have been a tremendous undertaking, threatening the national identity and the basis of government, splitting it in two is even riskier.
Given the context, the bill’s lengthy name ―“A Special Bill on the Construction of the Gongju-Yeongi Area Administrative Complex City as a Follow-up Measure for a New Administrative Capital” ―is rather clumsy. The previous special law on the capital relocation last time was the result of the opposition party’s blind collusion with the governing party’s scheme to reap electoral benefits by appealing to regional selfishness.
This time, the governing party has added a tactic to gloss over the policy failure that was exposed by the decision to rule the law unconstitutional. Politicians are trying to deceive the people by makeshift tampering with state affairs, but the people see through them.
Watching politicians play the clown, the people feel wretched. But we cannot laugh, even if it is funny, because the show is being conducted by the lawmakers we elected. On the other hand, we cannot cry either, because our survival and the fate of our descendants depend on what they do.
We are seeing how the constitutional order is shaken in the name of law, and by the legislative body at that. Just as the capital relocation law without due process was unconstitutional, so is this hastily conceived law. The capital transfer at this point is a plan that fails to foresee national reunification, causes damage to national legitimacy and goes against the current of history, the flow of globalization and the people’s livelihood. If they create a malformed city in empty fields, their efforts will produce nothing but an expansion of the size of the metropolitan area.
On top of that, dividing the capital city would place a permanent burden of inefficiency on state affairs. Let’s say we pour money into building a new city on the outskirts of the metropolitan area that is absolutely dependent on Seoul. We would be either lying or naive to suggest that such a city would be a viable check on Seoul’s population density.
The distribution of national resources would be distorted, and the decision-making process would be thrown into crisis. Besides the cabinet meetings, there are numerous other meetings in which various government ministries participate. How would government functions be carried out when the National Assembly, major corporations and foreign missions are still in Seoul?
Space is time, and time is an irreplaceable resource. This is why all ministries are concentrated in the capital.
In South Africa, earnest discussion is underway about reintegrating the capital, which was inevitably divided into three to mend conflicts among tribes. When Germany moved the capital to Berlin after reunification, it left some functions, including research and education, in Bonn just for the stability of the old capital. As these cases demonstrate, the division of a capital is a measure to be taken when it is unavoidable, not something to be attempted as a political ploy.
A measure for aiding the Chungcheong area should be considered separately from the question of building an administrative capital, since that is a matter of compensating for damage arising from policy failure, and is an issue related to development of a region according to the territorial development plan. Furthermore, the balanced development of territory should match the national development plan. I once suggested that we develop the southern coastal belt as the opposite pole to the metropolitan area by promoting advanced technology in that remote, less developed area and by turning the land in question into a marine-oriented open structure.
Now that politicians abandoned a great cause, with what can they lead this country? Trust is not something that can be attained by covering up or insisting upon one’s point of view. Trust can be earned when one frankly admits one’s failures.
Politicians should return to the original mission of their profession, which is to discuss national affairs openly and put the people at ease. They shouldn’t betray the country in the name of reform, and they shouldn’t desert a cause in the name of co-existence.
History is watching them with its eyes wide open. The truth can be covered up for a while by flattering speeches and insinuating looks, but it will be revealed before long. If the politicians don’t want to make another fuss one day about having to clean up the past, then they should open their eyes and look straight at the future, and the world. The people want to believe in the National Assembly as they believe in the history of the country.

* The writer is a professor of geography at Seoul National University and vice president of the International Geographical Union. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yu Woo-ik
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