Stop equivocatingThe bickering over building a grand canal should end. The government said it intends to clean up four major rivers and the opposition parties call it preliminary work to begin building a grand canal. Even President Lee Myung-bak is entangled in the debate. Reports on President Lee’s remarks made Monday at a breakfast meeting with Grand National Party Chairman Park Hee-tae have stirred a huge controversy. Lee reportedly said, “When we build a grand canal, we just do it. When we don’t do it, we don’t do it. We don’t need to say in advance we won’t do it.”
Yesterday the Blue House spokesman denied the report. However, the explanations from the Blue House and the ruling GNP leave many questions unanswered. Park reportedly asked President Lee, “Why don’t we announce that we will clean up the four rivers but that we won’t build a grand canal?” The Blue House acknowledged what Park said but insisted the president did not respond to Park. The GNP spokesperson said he was not aware of what happened.
Regardless of the merits of building such a canal, the fact that the president and the government are equivocal about the subject is problematic. The government has often given grounds for suspicion that it still intends to build the grand waterway. In June, President Lee said in a press conference when the country was in turmoil due to protests over the resumption of U.S. beef imports, “If our countrymen do not want a grand canal, I will not build it.” However, this left many feeling that President Lee has not fully given up on the idea. In June, the Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said, “Construction of the canal was suspended but not stopped.” This again raised eyebrows.
No matter how hard the government insists that the river projects have nothing to do with a grand canal, there are still doubts. “I felt that no policies would be successful without the public’s support,” said the president. We hope that he still feels the same way because public opposition against the canal has not waned. As in the negotiations on U.S. beef, no matter how much the president believes in something, he needs the support of the general public.
If the president respects public sentiment, he should quickly end the wasteful debate. The Blue House said the public does not understand the government’s intention, but that won’t stop the public from feeling frustrated. The public is still suspicious of the government and the president needs to dissolve these negative feelings.