A helpful open approachThe government is painstakingly trying to appeal to the residents of the Chung-cheong provinces of the need to change the blueprint of their new municipality called Sejong City. Prime Minister Chung Un-chan has visited the region four times since he took office. He braved his trips despite the egg-throwing and loud shouting from angry audiences.
President Lee Myung-bak also went to Daejeon, not far from Sejong. “There have been many from Chungcheong who sacrificed and devoted themselves to the country,” he said at a luncheon with local journalists. “I will also be better understood later one day if I work solely for our country,” he said, explaining why he was pushing forward with revision of the Sejong City design despite regional protests.
In the end, he believed his choice would benefit regional residents as well as the broader population. It was the first time he visited the contentious region after he officially expressed regret and apologized last month during a TV broadcast for revising the project.
The president and the administration should try hard to persuade opponents before proceeding with controversial projects and policies. The current government has been wanting in that area and has paid a heavy price. The best example could be the spat over American beef imports that sparked months of street protests.
If the government had tried harder to communicate with the public, the public would not have been swayed by rumors, instigation and misinformation. The Sejong City project exacted greater communication because the government was attempting to reverse a promise to the public. Chungcheong residents as well as many outside the region were dumbfounded when the prime minister-designate suddenly said the Sejong plan should be revised in September. The government is largely to be blamed for inciting emotional resistance to the change of plans. It is a relief to see the president personally attempting to reach out to the Chungcheong people.
We hope such outreach by the president and the administration can spread to other key government policies, including the four rivers project. The president emphasized the safety and necessity of redesigning the waterways in the televised address. But many still ask why reservoirs should be built along all four rivers and how construction pollutants can be blocked. The president and the cabinet members fell short of answering all questions about the project.
The opposition party is wrong to stage a sit-in at the National Assembly to protest the project. But it can conduct such a stunt because many in the public are suspicious. In addition to the Chungcheong residents, the president must personally answer queries by the opposition and the public. If the public finds his answers reasonable, the opposition loses ground.
President Barack Obama had frequented Congress and invited many legislators to the White House to seek their understanding and support for the health reform bill. His campaign prevailed, and the reform bill awaits passage by the Senate. If President Lee makes an effort and wins public understanding, the opposition legislators have no choice but to go along.