Canal is a public projectPresident-elect Lee Myung-bak will push ahead with the grand plan to build a cross-Korea canal by taking all necessary steps, according to Lee Kyung-sook, head of the transition committee.
Lee also said it will take about a year until the government will be able to kick off construction because the project needs private financiers. The spokesman for the transition committee said the public is getting the wrong impression ― that construction will begin immediately without a thorough review. Lee’s latest remarks aim to clarify that misunderstanding and reassure the public that the huge undertaking will be supported by comprehensive expert study and public opinion, the spokesman added.
It is indeed fortunate that we now have some time to look at things and avoid launching a giant project like this in a haphazard fashion.
The proposal to build a grand canal, despite all the political debate and dispute, has never been subjected to trustworthy feasibility tests. The head of the transition team also acknowledged that the plan for the grand canal did not undergo thorough public scrutiny and discussion. Soldiering on with the plan under those circumstances would ignore the very basic step of gathering public input.
But still we see some people attempting to rush ahead with the plan. The Construction Ministry is insisting that the government create special laws for the canal, like those for administrative capitals, since it will take a long time for environmental analysis and inspection of cultural heritage in line with current laws and regulations.
The Construction Ministry also reported to the transition committee that it is willing to resume construction of the Kyungin canal project that has been set aside for a long time.
The Grand National Party has mixed opinions on the project. GNP lawmaker Lee Jae-oh said the key issue is how to convince the naysayers. But another GNP lawmaker, Lee Hahn-koo, said more public discussion is needed, saying it can never be launched if the majority of the public opposes it.
The cross-Korea canal project could be a great landmark that is praised for centuries. But it requires objective and reliable tests and thorough public discussion to convince skeptics.
The project belongs to the people, not to any particular administration. The government needs to learn to back off if it fails to gain enough public support, or if research shows the project has more downsides than upsides.