All for one, one for allIn September 2002, presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun abruptly presented a populist campaign pledge to build an administrative capital in South Chungcheong. Seven years and nine months later, his vow continues to torment Korea by stirring up chaos and confusion. The revised Sejong City bill was eventually voted down in the National Assembly’s Committee on Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. Although it may reach a final vote in the assembly’s plenary session, the standoff between proponents of the original plan and those of the revised one is not likely to change course.
Who won and who lost in the long journey for a desirable Sejong City model? Was it Roh Moo-hyun’s populism that won, and Korean rationalism that lost? We are not against the idea of promoting balanced national development by building a new city in the region. Rather, we fully support efforts to create balanced development of the country. But the question is how. We believe it is unwise to choose a plan that would virtually split the capital into two. If the Prime Minister’s Office, nine ministries and two other government offices and agencies are moved to a place 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Seoul, it would not only cause extreme administrative inefficiency but would also raise security concerns, as with the Cheonan sinking. That’s why the government proposed to build a city focusing on education, science and the economy.
After such sharp divisions and fierce infighting, haven’t we all lost something? President Lee has already changed his pledge of support twice - once during his campaign and again after his election - marring his leadership. The mammoth Grand National Party has degenerated into a divisive group in which each faction looks out for its own interests. Former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye still stresses the importance of keeping one’s promises and trust as a politician. But she has failed to demonstrate political flexibility by clinging to the wrong promise. Meanwhile, the major opposition Democratic Party and the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party have both painted themselves into a corner: the former by blindly taking up a former president’s fallacious pledge, the latter by relying solely on the opinions of local residents.
Now the National Assembly is debating the GNP’s plan to put the revised bill to a vote in the plenary session. Considering the immense gravity of the project, it would be reasonable and honorable for all 291 lawmakers to support a brighter future for Sejong City. Opponents of the revision have no reason to avoid the vote if they are confident of their decisions. Now is the time to stitch up the wound and proceed with the project as planned - for Chungcheong and for us all.