Opposition zeroes in on Sejong, rivers plans

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Opposition zeroes in on Sejong, rivers plans

Governor-elects from the opposition vowed yesterday to renew their efforts to stop the Lee Myung-bak administration’s flagship development projects, demanding a meeting with the president to discuss the fate of the four major rivers restoration program.

An Hee-jung, the South Chung-cheong governor-elect, held a press conference yesterday and urged Lee to discuss the fate of the rivers project with the mayors and governors elected last week. “No matter how much the president wants to push it, he must stop if the people do not want it,” An said. “That’s democracy.”

In an interview with the Yonhap News Agency, Kim Du-kwan, an independent elected last week as governor of South Gyeongsang, also said he wants the administration to make major changes to the project.

“I don’t mean to stop it completely,” Kim said. “I agree with the flood prevention measures and water quality improvement plans.”

Kim questioned the idea of deepening the Nakdong River in his province. The plan to deepen the 320-kilometer-long (199-mile-long) river to six meters (19.7 feet) isn’t necessary for flood control or environmental reasons, he said, but would make it into a canal.

Kim was referring to Lee’s Grand Canal project, one of the president’s campaign promises in 2007, but which he later shelved after fierce public resistance.

Although the Lee administration says the four major rivers restoration project is different from the scrapped canal project, opposition parties say the two are essentially the same and the government is trying to deceive the public.

“The positions of South Chung-cheong Governor-elect An, Incheon Mayor-elect Song Young-gil and North Chungcheong Governor-elect Lee Si-jong are not much different from mine,” Kim said. “We will consult with the Land Ministry first, and then will seek a meeting with the president to reconsider the river restoration program.”

At a lawmakers’ workshop yesterday, the Democrats also decided to establish a special committee from the transition teams of the local governments to review the project’s implementation. The Democrats who were newly elected to head local government offices say they will reconsider budgets for the project and conduct new environmental surveys.

The Democratic Party also vowed to stop the Lee administration’s plan to scale back the development of Sejong City from a new government center for South Korea to an economic and science hub. The revision bill is currently stuck in the National Assembly, and the Democrats agreed yesterday to demand the Grand National Party and the administration give it up.

The Democrats also agreed to push forward the former plan to relocate key government ministries and public enterprises to Sejong City.

An, the South Chungcheong governor-elect, also said Saturday that he will join other local government heads to stop the revision efforts. “In cooperation with the Liberty Forward Party’s Daejeon mayor-elect Yum Hong-chul and the DP’s North Chungcheong governor-elect Lee, I will soon make a formal request to the government to give up its revision bill,” An said Saturday.

“If President Lee continues to ignore the people’s will, confirmed through [last week’s] elections, the aftermath will be unfortunate.”

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