Don’t be stubborn on Sejong

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Don’t be stubborn on Sejong

Former Grand National Party leader Park Geun-hye unequivocally stated opposition to the government’s revised design for Sejong City. She said she would not compromise even if the Chungcheong population yields.

The basis of democratic politics is dialogue and compromise. If she rules out any chance of a middle ground, her politics can lose ground. Politics is a creative process that allows all possibilities. A political leader’s prowess lies in crafting an exit when at the bottom of a pit. If Park wants to prove herself a leader, she must first open her heart.

Compromise may be the hardest thing for a politician. We can understand the sense of resentment and betrayal Park may be feeling when looking back on all her endeavors to win the hearts of Chungcheong voters while campaigning for the rival camp of President Lee Myung-bak during the last presidential election. She made that promise not for Lee, but for the residents and broader population. She should not dismiss doubts and concerns about the country’s future just because of something she had promised in the past.

What should matter most is the country’s benefit. Park has been reiterating the past promise, yet falls short of advocating the merits of creating a second administrative capital. What also should matter is the people’s wish. Park has been silent on this, raising hope that there still may be room for common ground.

President Lee must be more aggressive in engaging and talking to Park. Park had repeatedly urged the Chungcheong people to trust that candidate Lee would be faithful in his word to build Sejong into an administrative city. President Lee owes something to Park. The president is obliged to share opinions with a strong political figure in the ruling party.

The president desperately needs Park’s support to win legislative approval of the revised plan. Some float the idea of a referendum or popular poll, but that would be risky for the president’s leadership.

Moreover, the Constitution stipulates that a referendum can be sought only on foreign, defense and unification issues that are imperative to the state’s security. To have a law created by the legislative branch reversed by a referendum or popular vote can seriously undermine the three-branch government and democratic system.

Any revision to the Sejong Special Law should be done by the National Assembly that has developed the law in the first place.

Even if it takes time, the process must be done by putting one foot in front of the other through gradual consensus building. If all sides are willing to yield a little, the trip may be shortened. If everyone is committed to work for the country’s best interest, losing face and time should not be a problem.
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