No more partisan politicsThe rejection yesterday of the revised Sejong City bill at the plenary session of the National Assembly is symbolic of the chronic problems facing Korean politics. We have repeatedly expressed our opposition to the original version of the bill because of the inefficiencies it would inevitably cause in the realm of national governance. We have also pointed out that the original plan would not contribute as much to promoting balanced national development as expected. In reaching their decision, legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties were driven by populism. Because politicians resort to populist pledges to win votes every election season, the construction of a new administrative capital in South Chungcheong will proceed as originally planned.
The Sejong project was the result of the political machinations of then-presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun, who desperately needed the Chungcheong votes to win election. In fact, the project was initiated without deep consideration of the potential inefficiencies it could create, or how it would affect the government’s ability to govern in the future.
President Lee Myung-bak is not free from responsibility either. On many occasions in his presidential campaign, Lee promised to push ahead with the original plan. Although he was eventually elected, he lost voters’ trust when he reneged on his pledge after taking office. His approach to the revised Sejong project was also problematic. Even though he and the prime minister made visits to the Chungcheong region to persuade area residents to accept the revised plan, we wonder if he made as much effort with lawmakers.
The ruling Grand National Party, too, failed to stand united on the revision in the face of opposition from former GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye, who stood by the original plan in order to keep a political promise - regardless of whether it was right or wrong. She may have kept to her principles, but she showed that she is unable to cooperate with the party, and that’s a problem. The only bright point here is that the voting records of all the legislators will remain for history to judge. If any problems with the plan arise, the politicians who voted to reject the revision will be forced to take responsibility for their actions.
However, more worrisome than the pursuit of the original project is the behavior of our politicians. Although the nation has achieved democratization, the mere existence of democracy is not enough. It must also prove functional. Only when our politicians can reach rational conclusions through dialogue and compromise, rather than partisan interests, can we say we have a true democracy.