[EDITORIALS]Plan park with care

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[EDITORIALS]Plan park with care

A ceremony took place yesterday to declare that the site of the U.S. military base in Yongsan will be turned into a park after the troops move out. The event took place in front of the National Museum of Korea. President Roh Moo-hyun, at the ceremony, spoke about independence. We are, however, not interested in such political propaganda. We are more interested in how the land will be used valuably. Seoul lacks green space, and a park, about the size of Central Park in New York City, is thought to be a huge upgrade to this city’s competitiveness.
However, the central and the city governments are in conflict over this important matter and we wonder if the Yongsan base will actually be turned into parkland as planned. The Ministry of Construction and Transportation and the Seoul city government have agreed on a larger principle that 662 acres of the main and south posts of the garrison will become a park, while the remaining 47 acres of the United Nations Command, Camp Kim and other areas will be developed.
Despite such an agreement, the two sides began bickering after the ministry included a condition in Article 14 of the special legislation governing the Yongsan Park construction, stating that the construction minister will exercise zoning rights for the area, which was formerly an exclusive right of the city government.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and environmental groups said the ministry’s real intention is to develop some parts of the main and south posts and that was why the clause was added to the law. They said there would be no reason to change the zoning of the site, currently fixed as green space, if the park construction plan stays unchanged.
At this point, the Construction Ministry must clarify why it wants to exercise zoning rights over the Yongsan site, and the explanation had better be convincing. The ministry said it wants to develop the park systematically, but that is not persuasive enough. We even wonder if the Roh administration is trying to take away zoning rights from the city government in order to politicize this park construction issue.
Yongsan Park will be a valuable asset for our future generations. The construction should be done systematically under a long-term plan. The park should be left open and natural, rather than filled up with various facilities. It is better not to think about any hasty development plans, not to mention using it for political purposes.
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