[EDITORIALS]The boondoggle continuesThe Constitutional Court rejected yesterday a civic petition to nullify a special administrative city law, with seven justices in favor and two opposing. Following the ruling, the new administrative city construction project will move forward in a downgraded version of the original plan to relocate the capital.
The decision by the Constitutional Court should be respected because the rule of law depends on following its ruling. So far, Korean society has undergone fierce regional and ideological conflict surrounding the issue of building an administrative city, a project that originated in political maneuvering.
However, the court’s rejection to invalidate the special administrative city law leaves much room for controversy. The court said in its ruling that “the special law is not to be seen as an attempt to revise the constitution unless it violates the customary constitution that Republic of Korea’s capital city is Seoul.” By saying so, the court implied it could not rule against the special law because it does not infringe upon the peoples’ basic rights. However, building an administrative city practically means dividing the nation’s capital into Seoul and the administrative town. And this makes ambiguous the definition and boundary of the “customary law,” which served as a critical source for the previous ruling that a capital relocation law was unlawful. This is why many are critical, saying that the Constitutional Court performed a trick.
The Constitutional Court said the government ministries and offices that will be moved to the new location are “not considered to represent controlling roles in terms of the government’s political and administrative functions.” The nation’s economy and businesses are closely intertwined with politics and administration, and their cooperation is becoming more critical. Considering the trend observed in world-class metropolitan cities where economic and political functions converge, such a comment by the court is incomprehensible.
The division of the capital city is highly likely to make administrative functions inefficient. The time and expense to be poured into commuting between the cities of Seoul and Gongju in South Chungcheong province is going to be huge.
Construction of the administrative capital will take more than just a few years. Many are already suspicious whether the project will continue after the Roh administration is gone. The government must keep in mind that the financial and social costs will be enormous if the multi-trillion-won project falls apart.