[Viewpoint] Approaching Sejong City maturely

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[Viewpoint] Approaching Sejong City maturely

Korean-American video artist Paik Nam-june once boldly claimed that “art is fraud.”

“You just have to do something nobody else has done before,” the pioneer of electronic visual art laughingly declared during an interview with the Korean press sometime before he passed away in 2006. For someone whose work carried global influence and fame to ridicule his field was both astounding and refreshing.

Whether art be fraud or not, his comment shed a new light on my surroundings and what I value as work and devotion. It sent shivers up my spine and caused me to think about the run-of-the-mill habits of life. It shook and awoke an inner self-awareness and self-consciousness.

One area that remains doggedly in the realm of absurdity and fraud in our society is politics. Politicians and political parties have once again raised a hullaballoo and havoc over the planned Sejong City project. The country has been polarized after the government made it official that it wants to overturn the original plan of building a new administrative municipality.

The idea of building a new administrative capital in South Chungcheong, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Seoul, was floated by a presidential candidate of the then-ruling Democratic Party in 2002. The campaign promise was overruled by the Constitutional Court on Oct. 21, 2004.

The government and opposition camps compromised for a relocation of nine ministries and four government agencies. The incumbent government scrapped the plan and instead proposed creating an economic and scientific hub in the planned city.

The controversial plan encompasses a bundle of intricate and sensitive issues like the country’s future, development balance, public trust, regional favoritism and discrimination, political struggle, future presidential elections, and the early lame duck status of the incumbent administration. The fracas not only involves the government and political groups, but Chungcheong residents and other parts of the population.

It is not difficult to predict the path to developing a new city. From past experience, self-righteous and hollow-hearted politicians will likely pollute the land with foul and vicious verbal assaults through media, hearings, statements and rallies. Language and words that should be instrumental in setting order and shedding light into a chaotic world will exacerbate the conflict.

Disagreement is not always negative. It can excite an uncharted and diverse flow of ideas and consolidate the community to help culminate in the best possible decision.

It would be unnatural for a significant issue like creating a new city to proceed quietly without any argument. A complicated issue should be trimmed via intricate and heated conflict. The entire population should struggle to make the right choice for the country’s future.

An accord finally ironed out after a fierce debate justifies a plan of action. A productive conflict unravels through constructive exchange of words and reason. If one side refuses to respect the other and insists on his or her position, then the argument will amount to no more than a game of chicken, generating nothing but bitterness for one another.

In order to communicate, the opponents must not keep to their poles, but try narrowing the gap by understanding one another. The method may take time and patience, but reaps the best results for a community.

Before the opponents embark on efforts to reach common ground, both sides must agree to rule out use of baneful language and violence.

Destructive conflict accompanied by violence impairs character and reason that should be based on fairness and justice.

Philistine vicious verbal attacks caused more fatal damage and lasting scars than physical violence. To exhibit productive conflict rather than obsolete destruction, politicians from both corners must refrain from resorting to inflammatory rhetoric and instead fight for a workable solution that serves the public.

We can hardly expect to hear acknowledgment that “politics is a fraud” from the mouths of our politicians. But the public should at least be cool-headed and join together to create an environment encouraging productive debate. We must be objective critics and applaud the side that displays productive communicative skills. Only in this way, the players will come to their senses and stay on course for a constructive conclusion.

*The writer is a journalism professor at Hanyang University.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Jung-kee
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