[EDITORIALS]Find a win-win strategyAll national parks in the country stopped collecting admission fees at the start of this year, but some Buddhist temples are charging admission fees at the gates of the parks. This is arousing strong protest from mountain climbers. In particular, some temples raised the admission fees for cultural assets by 36 percent to 3,000 won ($3.24) from 2,200 won, making visitors angry. The JoongAng Ilbo cannot think that the abolishment of admission fees was the best choice. Of course, the government did so with good intentions, considering financial conditions of the working-class people that enjoy mountain climbing. But such a move goes against the user-pays principle and makes even those people who never visit national parks pay admission fees in the form of taxes. In addition, as the five-day workweek system is spreading among local businesses, the number of visitors to national parks has surged, so the parks have come to need more care and measures to protect the ecosystem. In this situation, the government abolished admission fees for national parks. Such a move can be suspected of being pork-barrel-politics before the presidential election. The government will not now be able to revive admission fees for national parks, but it should review whether the move was proper.
It is understandable that citizens are angry with the temples over the fees for cultural assets. They will feel bitter against the temples, which collect fees despite the abolishment of admission fees for national parks. And they will not be able to understand why the temples set the toll booths so far from the temples. However, they need to open their minds to the position of the temples, which have to care for cultural assets. The government designated relics in national parks as cultural assets but neglected caring for them. Instead of the government, the national park temples and the Buddhist world have cared for cultural assets in the parks, and citizens should recognize that. The temples’ argument that the fees are for the minimum cost of protecting the assets has some merit.
Accordingly, this problem should be solved with common sense and rationality. First, the temples should relocate their toll booths to the temple entrances, so that all mountain climbers should not be forced to pay the fees. In the long run, the fees could be abolished, while the government supports the temples in care and preservation of cultural assets. This would be a win-win strategy both for the Buddhist world and mountain climbers.