Parties agree to ‘euthanize’ Lee’s Sejong revision

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Parties agree to ‘euthanize’ Lee’s Sejong revision

The ruling and opposition parties have agreed to a “political mercy killing” of bills aimed at revising the Sejong City development plan, scheduling a committee-level vote next week to end 10 months of controversy over the plan.

Deputy floor leaders of the Grand National Party and Democratic Party agreed Wednesday that the Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Committee will vote on the five bills before this month’s legislative session ends. Representative Song Kwang-ho, head of the committee, said the bills will be deliberated and voted on next week after coordinating a date with parties.

According to lawmakers on the committee, the voting will likely take place Tuesday.

The original Sejong City plan, put forward by Roh Moo-hyun as a presidential election pledge in 2002, was to relocate the national government to the city in South Chungcheong. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled against Roh’s plan, saying the country’s capital could not be moved, and the president scaled it back to move many, but not all, government offices. That plan was passed into law in 2005, and the laws are still on the books.

Controversy erupted when President Lee Myung-bak said he would scale the plan down further to transform Sejong City into an industrial, science and education hub, but not a new mini-capital. Opposition parties as well as Grand Nationals loyal to Lee’s political rival Park Geun-hye fiercely oppose the revision, but this March the cabinet submitted five bills to push it through.

After the ruling party suffered a big defeat in the June 2 local elections, in which the Sejong City development was a big issue, Lee said he would abandon his plan, asking the National Assembly to make the decision.

Of the 31 members on the Land Committee, 12 are opposition lawmakers while nine are ruling party members loyal to Park. Most of those 21 lawmakers oppose the revision, and the five revision bills are expected to be rejected.

The committee’s voting next week, however, may not kill the plan immediately. The law governing the legislature allows a bill rejected by a committee to move forward to a legislative session when more than 30 lawmakers request it. Then the entire assembly has to vote.

Even if the bills move forward to a full vote, only about 100 pro-Lee lawmakers support them, not enough to meet the required majority of 146.

“You can easily guess the fate of the bills,” said Representative Chung Ok-nim, who has supported the revision. “The goal now is following the legitimate legislative process and leaving behind a record of each lawmaker’s opinion.”

A pro-Lee lawmaker also backed the idea, saying, “We want a record in the history on who supported the revision and who didn’t” - especially if the moving of the government out of Seoul turns out badly.

The Democratic Party said it will not allow such a voting at the main session. “If the Grand Nationals make an attempt, we will physically block it at all cost,” said a DP official.

Park, floor leader of the DP, also condemned the idea. “If the ruling party and the government think about the possibility, they still don’t understand what the people want,” Park said. “It must never happen, and I don’t think it deserves any attention.”


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

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