Listen to the scientistsThe long-touted international science and business belt is not solely about building a new city in a province. It’s about establishing a multi-functional complex that will include not only top-notch research facilities but also residential areas that provide quality cultural and educational services for residents. Korean scientists came up with the idea in 2004, and in the following year they proposed it to Lee Myung-bak, who at the time was the mayor of Seoul. Lee expanded on the idea by including finance and other industries and made it a campaign pledge when he ran for president.
Now the question is where to build it. If the various interested groups consider the project as a means to promote development in a specific region, it will most likely fail. Instead, when selecting the site, the top priority should be whether the area is appropriate for a scientific complex or not. It should, for example, be in a place where top scientists and engineers would be willing to work when the heavy ion linear accelerator, for instance, is completed.
Regional development comes after the needs of scientists that will work there.
The answer to who can judge the best site is clear. It is not the Blue House nor the lawmakers nor the heads of the local governments. It’s scientists themselves, because they know the most about the current status and future direction of our science and technology industries. Fortunately, the administration has already prepared a device to encourage the right decision: a special law that mandates a committee under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to determine the site.
Despite the existence of the law, the location issue is still prompting severe conflict. At the moment, Daejeon City, South and North Chungcheong, Gyeonggi, Gwangju City, South Jeolla, Daegu City and North Gyeongsang all are competing to be chosen as the site by holding meetings or rallies among lawmakers or heads of local governments or expert groups. President Lee and the GNP are primarily responsible for such chaos, as they pledged to build it in Chungcheong Province. Other provinces, meanwhile, are joining the fight by citing the special law. A bigger problem will come if the many aspirants end up settling the issue by scattering the complex to many sites.
“A neutral and independent committee should decide it,” said Min Dong-pil, chairman of the board at the Korea Research Council of Fundamental Science & Technology. Politicians should heed his words.