Revise the Sejong City plan

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Revise the Sejong City plan

A plan to revise the proposed Sejong City administrative capital relocation has gained increasing support from the ruling Grand National Party, the administration and the Blue House. Under the original plan, only government offices were to be relocated to the new city, but the administration, the Blue House and the GNP have come to the consensus that the plan will only create a ghost city.

The initial plan not only undermines the efficiency of the government operation but also fails to support the development of the Chungcheong region. The planned revision would encourage companies, education and science facilities to relocate to Sejong City in order to make it self-sufficient. And yet, no clear decision has been made to push the revision forward.

Opinion polls already show that the Sejong City plan must be revised. According to a survey by Research & Research announced Monday, 50.7 percent of those polled support building a self-sufficient city focused around science and medical research, while reducing the number of government ministries that would be relocated. Only 33.3 percent of respondents backed the initial plan to build an administrative hub.

After Prime Minister Chung Un-chan led the efforts to promote the revision, the public increasingly changed its mind.

Some Grand Nationals argue that the government plan should be changed to reduce the number of ministries and agencies to be relocated to Sejong City. GNP Chairman Chung Mong-joon said during a debate Oct. 6 that “it’s up to the administration to decide the ministries’ relocation,” and his remarks hint at the GNP’s hope for a revised plan.

Meanwhile, the Democratic and Liberty Forward parties are politicizing the issue, and Chung appears to be worried that the party may face criticism if it is the only one to insist on the change. Even some inside the GNP, including former Chairwoman Park Geun-hye, have remained silent on the issue, seeming to back the initial plan and making it even more difficult for the GNP to get a revised plan approved on its own.

Government Legislation Minister Lee Seog-yeon, however, has pointed out that it is cheating to change the plan while the law remains unrevised. Not all nine ministries, two agencies and two services would need to be relocated to meet the stated purpose of creating an administrative hub city under the law, but a significant portion of them would need to do so. It’s a difficult task, but the law should be revised. The Grand National Party, the administration and the Blue House must come up with a clear alternative and persuade the public and opposition parties.

But more than discussing which ministries would move or not, the administration must present a vision on how Sejong City should be built, since the project is already in progress.

The opposition parties must stop politicizing the issue. The project was presented to win Chungcheong votes, and the Roh Moo-hyun administration did actually benefit from it. But it is time to seriously reconsider the plan for the sake of Korea’s competitiveness in the future.
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