Ministry slams election restrictions

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Ministry slams election restrictions

Following the opposition’s criticism of the National Election Commission’s ban on public debate over “hot political issues” ahead of the June 2 local elections, the Land Ministry resisted yesterday the watchdog’s demand to temporarily close promotion booths for the government’s massive four rivers project.

“The project’s budget has been approved by the National Assembly, and it is a legitimately progressing state project,” said Kwon Do-yup, first vice minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. “It is necessary to inform the public about the program, and the election commission’s demand to stop the promotion during the election period will hinder the project.”

Earlier this week, the commission banned rallies by religious and civic groups to oppose the project before the election. It also requested the Land Ministry shut down the 40 promotional booths it operates nationwide until the elections are over.

Kwon said he understood the election watchdog’s desire to manage the elections fairly, but its move was a serious stretch in interpretation of the laws.

“It is natural for civil servants to inform the public accurately about a state project, and I think it is inappropriate to block such a process,” Kwon said. “That’s an infringement upon the people’s right to know. We will inform the commission about our position and decide what we will do after further consultation.”

Kwon also said the ministry is open to a public debate with the religious community on the four rivers project.

The ministry decided last week to form an advisory council by inviting experts and public servants to promote the project nationwide and to encourage public participation to overcome political and ideological resistance.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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