[EDITORIALS]Clean up Cheonggye projectThe prosecution has started an overall investigation of the Cheonggye stream restoration project following the arrest of Yang Yoon-jae, a deputy major of Seoul. According to prosecutors, Mr. Yang accepted 200 million won ($200,000) when he was working as the head of the restoration project from a real estate developer in exchange for eliminating height limits for a building to be constructed by the stream.
Mr. Yang, a former professor of Seoul National University, presented the idea of restoring Cheonggye stream and was invited by the city office to take charge of the project.
Despite his denial, if the allegation proves true that he accepted hundreds of millions of won and foreign currency, which were found in his office, that will be a shock to us all.
The Seoul government earlier reacted to the arrest, saying “Mr. Yang should be punished, if he committed any wrongdoing.”
But Seoul’s mayor, Lee Myung-bak, yesterday denounced the charge that Mr. Yang was offered the deputy mayor’s position or 6 billion won in exchange for the restoration idea as “a comedy.”
The truth will come out in trials, but it has tainted the image of the restoration work. The project to be completed on Oct. 1 is an environment-friendly redevelopment project designed to attract worldwide attention.
When measures to eliminate the height limits and allowing higher density buildings to be built along the stream were presented as incentives to dissatisfied landowners and merchants in the redevelopment area, the seeds of corruption started to grow.
Almost 80 percent of Seoulites who supported the project will be disappointed if allegations are proved. Hoping to see clear water running through the stream, the citizens must feel betrayed by the situation, which must be investigated thoroughly.
But the restoration project itself shouldn’t be seen as rife with corruption. And the prosecution must avoid being suspected of having a political agenda of “Lee Myung-bak bashing.”
The project is significant in that it not only provides citizens with a space for rest, but also restores the history and culture of the center of the city. The prosecution’s investigation should not spoil the significance of the project.