Numbers are obstacle to Sejong plan

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Numbers are obstacle to Sejong plan

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Top: A group of Chungcheong residents hold a rally to welcome the new proposal of the Sejong City project yesterday in Daejeon.[YONHAP] Above: Lawmakers of the Liberty Forward Party, a Chungcheong-based conservative party, have their heads shaved at the National Assembly yesterday to protest the revised plan.By Ahn Seong-sik

Now that the administration has made it official to go ahead with redrawn plans for developing Sejong city, the destiny of the city has been handed to citizens and lawmakers.

Two separate special laws on an “administration-centered complex city in Yeongi and Gongju for follow-up measures on a new administrative capital” and on an “administration-centered complex city in Yeongi and Gongju for Sejong special autonomous city establishment and follow-up measures” should be revised, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. The April session of the National Assembly may deal with the bills at the earliest but there is a chance they will be delayed beyond local elections scheduled in June, political insiders say.

Since the original plan to relocate government ministries and other agencies has been scrapped, the government is expected to draft and submit bills without the phrase “administration-centered.”

Even if the government quickly finalizes drafting the bills, the chance of their passage will be bleak without consent from more than two thirds of the Grand National Party members. The party has 169 lawmakers but the pro-Park Geun-hye faction within the party, which still insists on the original plan, totals 60.

If the bills pass the Standing Committee and Legislation and Judiciary Committee, final voting remains. For a bill to pass at the 298-seat 18th National Assembly, 150 votes in support are required.

As of yesterday, the Democratic Party had 87 and the second-tier opposition Liberty Forward Party had 17. The remaining 25 seats are held by minority parties and independent politicians.

Political observers say proposing special bills to the National Assembly should be preceded by a unified opinion on the new development plans, particularly among Chungcheong residents. If sentiment improves there, the administration could persuade the whole country and proceed with the new blueprint.

But a persistently negative view will deprive the government of that driving force.

Ahn Sang-soo, leader of the GNP, said the government is advised to propose bills after Chungcheong residents and Korean citizens show sympathy for the revised development plans.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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