A green heritage

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A green heritage

President Lee Myung-bak just the other day said, “When looking down from a helicopter, the greenbelt near Seoul is full of greenhouses.”

He said it would be possible to solve the housing shortage problem by developing the greenbelt, which won’t require the necessity of building roads and schools, as you would have to for a completely new town.

Now that the president has expressed his views, government departments including the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs will inevitably start competing to devise greenbelt development policies.

So it’s not so far-fetched to say that greenbelt management is facing its biggest threat in 38 years.

Previous administrations left the greenbelt the way it is because they didn’t know any better. But now the temptation to develop these areas is enormous. If there’s the will, it would be relatively easy, since the greenbelt is close to the heart of the capital and land values are low.

What’s more, local residents don’t appear to be putting up much resistance so far.

But we should know why earlier administrations, including the military dictatorships, were reluctant to disturb the greenbelt. The chief reason? It’s the capital’s lungs.

Although the Park Chung Hee government forcibly restricted the development of the greenbelt, the majority of the public were in agreement anyway. People saw the need for a green zone.

Today’s government takes a different view. Whereas the Roh Moo-hyun government lifted the restriction on 50 square kilometers of greenbelt to build apartments for lower income families, the Lee administration is much bolder.

It’s planning to build a housing complex for lower income people by dismantling 308 square kilometers of greenbelt, which is five times the size of Bundang in Gyeonggi.

Destroying more areas of greenbelt is troubling, and since the government wants to plow ahead and build a new town there, it should ask for the backing of the public.

If the greenbelt is full of greenhouses when you look down from a helicopter, it would be far more appropriate to turn the area into a forest.

We hope President Lee clarifies his words before reckless development plans start pouring in.

The greenbelt is a valuable heritage for the next generation, not something to be wiped away for urban development.
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