End wrangling on river plan

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End wrangling on river plan

South Jeolla Governor Park Joon-yung’s remarks on the Yeongsan River restoration project sound quite fresh. At a meeting with reporters the other day, he said that the government’s efforts to restore the Yeongsan River should not be distorted by politics.

Park once served as the head of the Government Information Agency during the Kim Dae-jung administration. When a politician of his caliber makes such a statement, people should approach the issue prudently rather than rushing to ideological judgments.

Last year, however, Park was criticized by leaders of the Democratic Party, who boycotted the groundbreaking ceremony for the four rivers project, for endorsing the government plan.

Reckless opposition against government-led projects such as this will only hamper regional development.

The job of our mayors and governors is to work for the people in their constituency, not push for projects that will work to their own political advantage.

Park, a third-term governor, once said that 90 percent of his job is about administration while 10 percent is about politics. The heads of other local governments should think about what message he wanted to convey.

Opposition parties took a victory in the local elections. But that doesn’t mean all of the voters supported all of the candidates’ pledges. If so, it would mean that President Lee Myung-bak’s campaign pledge to build a cross-country canal from Seoul to Busan should also be realized.

Governor Park says that the people of South Jeolla desperately want the Yeongsan River to be restored, which is why he decided to support the four rivers project.

What he says about the reality of the river is unbelievable: “The quality of the river water is so bad that you can’t even use it for farming,” he said. “In some spots, three-meter- [9.8-foot-] thick mud has piled up. In the summer, you have to smell the stinking odor of rotting sewage.”

It should be noted that the other rivers are similarly in need of restoration, and most have decaying water flowing through them.

We wish that other local government heads were more like Park. Government heads should listen to their constituents and examine the conditions behind the issues before stoking anger and political strife.

The central government should reassure the public that its four rivers project is aimed at eco-friendly water management, not at giving benefits to construction companies. It may be better for the government to first adopt a policy that will facilitate regional cooperation.
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