Gov’t publishes notice on Sejong City revisions

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Gov’t publishes notice on Sejong City revisions

The Lee Myung-bak administration yesterday issued an advance legislative notice for its plan to revise the development blueprint of Sejong City in South Chungcheong, deepening the rift between rival factions inside the Grand National Party.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs published a notice in the government gazette that it will seek five revisions to laws governing construction of the city. The changes are meant to shift the development scheme of Sejong from an administrative hub. Under the new plan, key government offices will be relocated to a business center and conglomerates and universities will be invited in.

Four Korean conglomerates and one Australian company have said they plan to invest in the area, and two universities said they will open education and research programs there.

Although the Lee administration’s decision to scrap the original plan and introduce a new development blueprint was made public weeks ago, the legislative notice served as a trigger for protests in the Chungcheong region.

Some residents of Yeongi and Gongju, where the new city is being built, called the government’s move a betrayal of a promise to the citizens.

Opposition parties have condemned the move to revise the initial plan, as has Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the GNP and one of the strongest contenders for the 2012 presidential election. Pro-Park lawmakers said yesterday the government is pushing the issue unilaterally. “Why should the government push the legislative notice forward while opinion in the nation is severely split?” said Representative Park Jong-kun. “We need to listen to the public and have deeper conversations.”

Pro-Lee lawmakers, however, defended the government’s move. “Publishing a legislative notice is a normal procedure to collect opinions ahead of submitting revision bills,” said Representative Jang Kwang-keun. “It’s not something we should or can avoid because we fear conflicts.”

With yesterday’s legislative notice, the government has until Feb. 16 to collect public opinions on the revision bills. Then, the Ministry of Government Legislation and the regulatory reform committee of the Prime Minister’s Office will review the wording of the bills. The bills will be submitted for approval at vice ministerial and cabinet meetings before the government submits them to the National Assembly for approval.

Representative Ahn Sang-soo, the GNP’s floor leader and a pro-Lee faction member, said the government should submit the bills in early March. In-depth coordination with the party is a must before they are submitted to the legislature, Ahn added.

“The February session will be focused on other bills that are directly linked with people’s lives, such as job creation,” Ahn said. Other politically sensitive bills such as a move to dispatch Korean troops to Afghanistan and a plan to redraw administrative zones are also expected to be voted on during the February session.

By Ser Myo-ja []

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