Regionalism at play

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Regionalism at play

The words and actions of Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun are very dangerous.

At a DP executive meeting yesterday, he said that the government’s four rivers restoration project “should be called the Nakdong River project” and claimed that “60 percent of the budget should go to the Nakdong River and the other three rivers should only play supporting roles.”

Instead of considering the broader purpose of the project, he is stoking controversy by provoking regional emotions. It is hard to believe such words came from the mouth of the leader of the largest opposition party, the one that ruled the country for the past 10 years.

This is not a first for Chung, who continuously makes remarks that stimulate regional emotions. When he visited Gwangju on Aug. 6, he caused a stir by saying, “The civil servant world is getting rid of all Honam officials.”

However, according to one newspaper analysis, the percentage of high-ranking officials - those grade 1 or above - from Yeongnam decreased to 36.5 percent from 39.7 percent during former President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration.

While the percentage of officials from Honam decreased to 18 percent from 22.8 percent during former President Kim Dae-jung’s administration, using the phrase “getting rid of all Honam officials” is a gross exaggeration.

This is not to say that we should try to determine which region is getting the “most” benefits. The point is that a leader who supposedly represents a broad base of people and interests should at least refrain from acting as a spokesperson for a certain region.

Furthermore, it is very irresponsible to lead the public down the road of division and conflict without any logical evidence behind him.

Chairman Chung said, “If absolute evaluation is accurate, there is no need for comparative evaluation.” But as Democratic Party assemblyman Cho Kyoung-tae pointed out, the key figures in the DP are in fact all from Honam, with Chairman Chung and floor leader Lee Kang-rae from North Jeolla Province and legislator Park Jie-won from South Jeolla Province.

People from Honam have suffered the most damage due to regional conflicts. And they, as well as the Democratic Party, have nothing to gain from provoking such ruinous regional emotions once again.

Perhaps a few politicians who are trying to expand their power within the political party using certain regional attitudes will be able to benefit from it for a little while. However, that would be an eternal sin committed in front of the entire nation.
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