[Letters] Building a consensus on Sejong
Some debates never get old. When it comes to the dispute around Sejong City, that certainly seems to be the case. The plan to construct an administrative hub in South Chungcheong is now under siege due to “unrealistic protocols,” as the presidential office puts it.
In the course of the announcement, I believe that the government did a horrible job in persuading the political and public arenas. The government should have released their statement after a more thorough discussion, considering the gravity of the project.
This is evident in the fact that a large fraction of the ruling party members, with representative Park Geun-hye in the forefront, are also opposing the proposed change of plan.
Also, the constant alteration of the government’s stance even on the revision itself (the government first announced it would settle the revised plan by January; a few days later, that changed to December) only aggravates the public’s frustration.
With almost six years passed since the project started in 2003, a hasty decision to revise the plan would hurt not only the sentiment of the people of the Chungcheong provinces, but increase national distrust and political unrest, which would ultimately hinder the project’s progress.
Yet, alongside this, a probably more essential problem that we need to examine is whether the original draft was capable of “shifting” the economic and political tectonics of this country. Indeed, creating a new administrative headquarters would boost the local economy.
What I want to point out is: Would the benefits be sufficient to cover the costs? Moving the whole administrative section 100 miles away from the economic and political headquarters would be a tricky task, but what’s more concerning is the fact that the new location has basically no infrastructure to synergize the transfer.
The object of the whole project is to develop the local districts of provinces that have lagged behind for decades due to the centralized development plans of the 1970s and ’80s. Yet without the proper infrastructure to support the transfer, the ripple effect on the rural economy would not be as staggering as the government had either hoped or planned for.
Prime Minister Chung Un-Chan recently mentioned in a press conference that he is thinking of Dresden, a once underdeveloped city in then-East Germany that grew to become an industrial and technological research hub, as the project’s role model.
What I want to point out is that if the government officials feel like changing the plan, it is acceptable as long as they are able to persuade both the political and public arena.
Their move should be both articulate and careful, because from now on, there can be no turning back. With six years of arguments and nothing put into practice, the public’s patience is coming to an end.
Kang Jae Yoon, student, Daewon Foreign Language School
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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