Why should we pay?President-elect Lee Myung-bak suggested on Tuesday that it is possible to restore Sungnyemun, or Namdaemun, using people’s donations.
On the same day, the presidential transition team released a plan to stage an official event to solicit contributions.
But we believe that the restoration must be done with the national budget, not with the hard-earned savings of the people of this country.
The government must make a budget and use taxpayers’ money for this task.
After all, it is one of the government’s basic duties to preserve, maintain and restore monuments of historical importance.
It is especially hard to find legitimate reasons to raise donations when we consider similar cases in the past.
First, the government used to seek private contributions when it needed to fund a project but was short on cash. Under Park Chung Hee’s rule, money was collected from companies to help pay for defense.
Second, money was collected when the use of the national budget was deemed inappropriate. For example, donations were sought to help the underprivileged.
Third, the government collected money when it needed an event to unite the people. The Chun Doo Hwan administration staged such an event twice.
One occasion was building Independence Hall as a response to Japan’s attempts to distort history about its occupation of Korea.
The other time was when the government collected money to build a dam to protect the South from a possible North Korean attack.
The president-elect said people would feel more consoled if they made their own donations, rather than using the national budget for restoring the burned-down monument.
But Sungnyemun burned down because the government neglected its duty.
The Cultural Heritage Administration and Jung District Office in Seoul neglected their duty to manage the gate after authorities opened the National Treasure No. 1 to the public. The National Emergency Management Agency was unprepared for the fire and failed to respond in time.
Thus it is hard to understand why people will feel better if they pay for the restoration of Sungnyemun themselves.
We don’t want to see a new administration advocating small government but building a cross-Korea canal with private capital and restoring National Treasure No. 1 with people’s donations.