[Viewpoint] Time to be firm on Sejong City

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[Viewpoint] Time to be firm on Sejong City

Representative Kim Moo-sung, a devout stalwart of former Grand National Party leader Park Geun-hye, proposed a plan B for Sejong City as a way to end the factional dispute in the ruling party over the remaking of the planned city in the Chungcheong provinces.

He proposed seven nonadministrative state agencies relocate to Sejong City on top of the government’s plan to have the city host corporate and science and technology research centers. The plan would be somewhat in line with the original 2005 legislation for the city to become a second administrative city housing a number of government agencies.

Other ideas began to pour in. Some proposed sending other agencies as well. Earlier, a lawmaker proposed scaling back the number of agencies to be relocated to four to six from the initially planned 14.

The motive behind these proposals is understandable. The conservatives supporting the original legislation are steadfast and fear that without some kind of compromise, the government’s proposal for a revised city design as a scientific and corporate hub will likely flop. Their endeavors to save the party and avert a worst-case scenario are understandable.

But when sailing in tumultuous weather, it is best to stick to one’s course. The seven institutions Representative Kim proposes moving to the new city are deeply rooted in the capital, both historically and functionally. The Supreme Court makes up the third branch of government along with the administration and the legislature. The judiciary is comprised of three pillars ? the Justice Department at the head and the prosecution on one side and attorneys on the other. The Constitutional Court exists to protect constitutional and human rights as well as judging the rights and wrongs of controversies in state affairs. The Board of Audit and Inspection under the auspices of the president oversees accounting and the ethics of public servants. The Fair Trade Commission is the watchdog of corporate trade practices. The National Human Rights Commission and Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission cannot work without other government agencies’ cooperation.

There must be an imperative reason to send these institutions far away from the capital. But such a reason does not exist. The government proposal defines Sejong City as a corporate city specialized in education and science and has been soliciting economic powers fulfill that goal. What good would a flock of public servants bring to such a city? Even if they were economically useful, what about the side effects and cost of inefficiency?

Those championing Representative Kim’s idea say the institutions are sovereign agencies and their move won’t cause a hiccup in administrative operations. These people have no idea about the function and characteristics of these institutions. Without a sound rationale for such a move, the idea is only a convenient Band-Aid to dress over the immediate rift in the party and to appeal to the proponents of the original plan.

Sejong City was created out of political expediency. After a president’s proposal to move the capital to the Chungcheong provinces was ruled unconstitutional, the government and politicians came up with the relocation idea to soothe the upset population in the region. The expedient decision has raised a commotion in the country, yet politicians are once again considering covering the matter with another merely expedient idea.

Are government organs that insubstantial? Are they just pieces of a pie to satisfy the appetites of as many people as possible? Are they giveaways to please customers?

Representative Kim has helped to break the ice and to foster discussions of the matter. But the debate must center on the essence of the problem, not how to disguise it.

The college of cardinals secludes itself to elect the pope in a procedure called a conclave. The ruling party lawmakers also should seclude themselves for hearty discussions on the state’s future. Then they should gather for a vote in the National Assembly.

The government’s new bill proposes rewriting the legislation. A legal amendment is not a subject for a popular referendum. The vote in the legislature should be open, not secret. It is a matter of public policy. All legislators must stand by their vote with confidence. The result should be on the record.

If the new bill is rejected by a legislative vote, the original legislation takes effect and moves the administrative offices starting in 2013. The relocation takes place during the next president’s term. The country will all sigh with relief if the move of the prime minister’s office and other government offices causes as few problems as the advocates promise.

But if administrative inefficiency weighs down state affairs, the entire population would have learned a hard lesson. Like Germany, we may have to discuss moving the offices back to the capital five or 10 years later. We might have to suffer massive turmoil economically and socially, but it is a price we would all have to pay. If that’s the country’s fate, what a mess we’ve made.

*The author is an editorial writer on political affairs for the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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