Give them what they wantThe government has decided to take over development rights it had entrusted to the provincial government of South Gyeongsang to build dams and dredge the Nakdong River as part of the four-rivers restoration project.
After the central government said it would push the project ahead itself, South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Du-gwan reacted strongly against the decision. “We will use all possible means to respond to the government plan, including litigation,” said Kim.
That indicates the confrontation over the national development project could end up as a legal battle between the central and provincial governments. If so, it would be the first of its kind since the local autonomy system was introduced in the country over two decades ago.
The fight originates from the province’s contradictory position, in which it is reluctant to turn over its rights to assign construction contracts while opposing the four-rivers restoration project itself.
We argued that the province should return the rights to the central government when it officially opposed the project last month. But the provincial government has continued to delay the project while also refusing to give the rights back to the government.
The 13 sections along the Nakdong River that the South Gyeongsang government is entrusted with are now 16.8 percent complete, compared to an average of 32.3 percent for the entire area. In the 47th section in the province, the provincial government has not even assigned construction contracts to local developers, which could very well mean it is intentionally trying to sabotage the project.
The provincial government has said that it opposed the project because it would cause “damage” to local residents. But now it says it will not return the rights in order to “protect our residents’ rights to life and health.” In fact, South Gyeongsang residents are urging the governor to proceed with the projects to protect their right to the “life and health” the governor cherishes so much. All of the heads of the 10 cities and counties along the Nakdong River have already approved the project.
Along with the legal battles, South Gyeongsang is reportedly considering cancelling a plan to refurbish farmlands, which is part of a dredging project supported by local farmers. We are dumfounded that the governor would even attempt to put a stop to a plan his own constituents want. We hope that he will follow the will of the people without making any more trouble.