[INSIGHT]Land plans driven by politics

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[INSIGHT]Land plans driven by politics

The Yellow Sea alliance of China’s east coast area and three northeastern provinces, the Korean Peninsula and the cities of Japan’s southwest coastal regions has the possibility of becoming an economic community that’s greater than the European Union.
The beginning will be the alliance of the three cities of Incheon, Qingdao and Dalian, joining together to form a maritime industrial complex. The next step will be forming an economic community of the Korean Peninsula and the Liaoning and Shandong provinces of China. In three to four decades, it can be further developed to grow into the Yellow Sea alliance.
The grand plan is proposed by professor Kim Seok-chul, an architect and urban planner, in his recent book, “The Korean Peninsula Project of Hope.” The idea of linking the maritime cities of the Korean Peninsula and China and extending the alliance to inner China, Japan and the Pacific appears to be gaining momentum. The project requires a restructuring of spaces in the Korean Peninsula. That is a grand design of the nation’s development.
Because I am not an expert, I cannot say how feasible his plans are. But it is astonishing to see how farsighted are his national development strategies, which stretch at least to the next half-century, and how deep is his imagination, which covers China and the Pacific. I hope his publication will serve as a critical opportunity to correct Korea’s hasty development policies and reckless development around the nation.
It is not fair to say Korea does not have a blueprint for national development. The 4th Comprehensive National Territorial Plan, established based on the Act on Comprehensive Plans for Construction in the National Territory of Jan. 8, 2000, still exists. But that is nothing more than just a piece of scrap paper. The focus of the national development will switch to a comprehensive administrative city in the Gongju and Yeongi areas, a plan that was approved by the National Assembly recently.
The fourth development scheme was designed to resolve the overpopulation of the capital region and to foster balanced development throughout the nation, an intent similar to the Roh administration’s plan to move some government agencies to other areas.
If the existing plan was wrong, it is natural to correct it. But I want to ask the Roh administration if it has seriously reviewed the fourth development scheme before abandoning it.
If a development plan gets changed with each new administration, how can we call it a national development plan? On the Ministry of Construction and Transportation’s Web site, an ambitious proposal of the 4th Comprehensive National Territorial Plan is still posted. It is a victim of today’s politics.
The plan that’s on the Internet testifies to the country’s armchair policies on land developments. The general design for national development is poor, and each regional government is carrying out its own construction and demolition projects. The nation is suffering from such individualistic practices.
The most serious obstacle to consistent and systemic national development is projects inspired mainly by politics, and we have seen many of these cases. The Saemangeum reclamation project and the ongoing capital relocation plan are all presidential election pledges.
Money-losing regional airports and industrial complexes are also the products of pork-barrel politics. Some lawmakers treat their constituents’ land as their own, and swap parcels for votes. Once the damage is done, the politicians often become irresponsible, and there is no way to hold anyone responsible after an administration changes.
Empty airports and industrial complexes and the failed Saemangeum project were all initiated by former President Roh Tae-woo. But the environmental activists’ recent protests against these programs never mentioned his role in the projects.
Even more deplorable is our society’s willful ignorance in repeating the very same failures. All the twists and turns taken to reach the decision to move some parts of the government out of Seoul were nothing more than the politicians pandering for votes.
So-called follow-up measures such as moving the Seoul Airport are also nothing more than politically driven debates. There is no principle; there is no plan. While policies flip-flop and politicians chase votes, the nation is suffering even greater damage.
It would be best to reconsider the plan to disperse the government agencies away from the capital, but that is expecting too much at this point. What we can do at least is learn from failed policies to prevent a similar mistake from recurring.
First, we must block any development program that is politically motivated. We must come up with measures that will prevent election pledges for such projects. An organization of land development specialists should be formed, and it should have the power to design a future-oriented development plan that will be carried out even after an administration changes.
The peninsula is where our descendants will live for generations. A land development plan must be created with a philosophy and wisdom that will last a millennium, and we will need the patience and will to execute the plan step by step.
Land development plans must be shielded from the vagaries of politics. A presidential administration lasts only five years, and so we must halt the practice of altering our national development plan every five years for the sake of yet another politician’s election pledge.

* The writer is the chief of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Heo Nam-chin
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