[EDITORIALS]A project held hostageSigns have emerged that an environmental survey for the Mount Cheonseong segment of the Seoul-Busan express rail will be delayed indefinitely. The Korea Rail Network had reached an agreement with environmental groups to begin the three-month survey in June. But the plan was bogged down because of a single sentence inserted into a report on the project by the rail network.
That sentence says that Venerable Jiyul, the Buddhist nun who went on hunger strikes on behalf of a salamander said to be endangered by the project, had broken three agreements in the past. This provoked the environmentalists at a time when both sides were engaged in a war of nerves.
It is just as hard to understand why the environmentalists refuse to cooperate, picking at faults even though the rail network has expressed regret. The environmentalists have delayed the survey for months, claiming that the rail network is behaving unfairly and trying to manipulate public opinion. Korea has now become a country where national projects fall prey to struggles with environmental groups.
If the groups repeat this kind of behavior in the future, it will be hard to conduct any national projects at all. The Mount Cheonseong malady may already be spreading to the Honam express rail construction. Since Osong was chosen as the junction for the Honam express rail, signs have loomed large that the tunnel through Mount Kaeryong will be subject to similar controversy. Environmentalists in Daejeon and South Chungcheong province are speaking up about it.
The government’s response has been even more pitiful. The administration and the Uri Party are promoting a bill requiring companies participating in national projects to conduct an analysis of anticipated political conflicts, in addition to the environmental survey already required. If it becomes law, contractors will have to study the mood of environmentalists.
When national projects are delayed, public funds are wasted. The government knows that such delays will postpone an economic recovery. If politicians, after launching these projects for political reasons, pay no attention to delays and wastes of money, there will be big problems. It is necessary to persuade environmentalists and local residents to accept these projects. Conflict management centers could help nip such problems in the bud.