Calm down, it’s a democracy

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Calm down, it’s a democracy

The government has finally unveiled the new outline for the planned Sejong City in South Chungcheong. As expected, it set aside the original plan to create a second capital housing four ministries and four agencies. Instead the city will host a cluster of operations by leading conglomerates and universities to serve as an economic hub with a focus on research and development.

Under the revised outline, land reserved for companies and universities that promise new jobs would account for 20.7 percent of the city, compared with the 6.7 percent estimated in the 2005 plan. The greater corporate and research and development emphasis will help to generate jobs for 246,000 people, a jump from 84,000 estimated in the original plan. The government plans to offer incentives such as low land prices and tax cuts to draw more investment. It will complete the city construction by 2020, 10 years ahead of schedule.

The path has been set for the new city. The government must now make sure the pledged capital investments from major business groups like Samsung, Hanwha, Lotte and Woongjin materialize, along with campus relocations or new construction by Korea University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. They make up the linchpin of the new plan and the cancellation of any of their investments could jeopardize the city’s future. Some still believe this list of powerful corporate and university names may be a publicity stunt to quiet opposition. The government must continue to supplement and attract domestic as well as foreign investors to lend credibility to its new plan.

The president, who confessed that the revision of the Sejong City plan was his idea, should address opponents among the public, within the ruling party and in opposition parties via press conferences, interviews and meetings to hear and engage their side as much as possible.

The opposition parties, some of whose members shaved their heads or took to the streets in protest, must stop and think. The opposition saw the public rally behind their protests against the military dictatorships in the past because the government had abused its power over all parts of society to a suffocating extent. But we live in a different period, and the revised Sejong City plan, like any state policy, must undergo parliamentary review and a public hearing before it is put to a legislative vote. Antiquated and exhibitionist protesting and opposition will only backfire.

There is only one solution. Proponents and opponents alike should debate the revised plan at the National Assembly. We hope and anticipate a constructive argument aimed at fulfilling public needs.

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