Canal politics

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Canal politics

It is worrisome that Chung Jong-hwan, the minister of land, transport and maritime affairs, has repeatedly mentioned a cross-country canal project. “The construction of a canal between Seoul and Incheon will be promoted again,” he said.

The project is worth examining. However, it is a problem that he said the cross-country canal project was halted, not canceled. That overturns President Lee Myung-bak’s June promise that he wouldn’t promote the waterway if the people opposed it.

Many surveys showed that nearly 80 percent of the people were against it. The plan was severely criticized in the April general election. Nothing has changed.

One wonders why the minister of land, transport and maritime affairs is obsessed with promoting the canal project. Chung said, “It is not good take a political approach to the canal project and it should be examined seriously to find out effective ways to use rivers and waterways.” However, it seems that it is Chung himself who is approaching the issue from a political standpoint. If it is brought up again, the country will be divided and the administration’s approval rating will nosedive.

The canal connecting Seoul and Incheon is different. The construction of the Seoul-Incheon canal had been abandoned in the face of opposition from environmental organizations. The water quality in the Gulpo Stream is terrible. Of the entire 18-kilometer canal, only 3.8 kilometers are left to build. If it is completed, the waterway will be connected to the Han River. Now, vessels can’t travel through the mouth of the Han River for security reasons and also because there is equipment that prevents ocean water from flowing back into the river. Once the Seoul-Incheon canal is completed, not only cargo that travels between Seoul and Incheon, but also that from the southern and western coasts, can be delivered directly to the Han River. The completion of the Seoul-Incheon canal should be considered.

However, the Seoul-Incheon canal shouldn’t be used as a prelude to the cross-country canal. In the last presidential election, voters chose President Lee because they wanted him to revive the economy, not to construct a grand canal. It is regretful that his administration hasn’t revived the economy and has clung to the canal project. If the administration continues to mention the canal, it will only be regarded as political maneuvering. The canal idea should be changed into a maintenance project of the four major rivers, as promised earlier.
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