Trouble brewing for Lee’s revised science park plan

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Trouble brewing for Lee’s revised science park plan

Reminiscent of the Sejong City plan that sparked political controversy and public division last year, another possible clash of titans looms inside the Grand National Party over the government’s new project to build an international science complex.

“The president has made a promise, and now he is saying he will reconsider it from square one. Then, isn’t he saying that he will take responsibility for it?” Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the Grand National Party, said Wednesday about the current political controversy surrounding the science belt project.

During his TV appearance on Feb. 1, President Lee Myung-bak said he would scrap an election pledge to build a science and business belt in the Chungcheong region, prompting criticism from opposition politicians, particularly those from the area.

Chungcheong was to be the site of the country’s international science complex, in which 3.5 trillion won ($3.1 billion) will be invested by 2015, after Lee promised in his 2007 campaign to scrap a plan to build a mini-capital city in South Chungcheong’s Sejong City and instead build the science-business belt. But the National Assembly shot down the Sejong City revision bill last June, and plans for the mini-capital are going forward.

Lee, then, made clear that there was no reason to give the science belt project to the Chungcheong region, saying that scientists would make the decision on the site.

While the Chungcheong-based Liberty Forward Party angrily protested Lee’s remarks, Park remained silent about the issue until Wednesday. Last year, Park effectively derailed Lee’s plan to revise the Sejong City bill by making public her opposition.

Park also told reporters Wednesday that the Grand National Party, as a ruling party, must also handle the conflict responsibly. Park’s spokesman, Representative Lee Jung-hyun, said she had no intention to fight the president or the government.

While some GNP lawmakers interpret Park’s remarks as pressure on Lee to keep his promise to the Chungcheong area, the Blue House reacted calmly.

“The site of the science belt must be decided transparently and objectively, not politically,” a senior Blue House official said. “It’s not something politicians can decide.” He also said there was no way for the government to change the process to decide the site, because the National Assembly has already approved the special law governing the selection. The law takes effect on April 5.

Meanwhile, the Liberty Forward Party continued attacking Lee by saying that his promise was a part of his official campaign pledge, confirmed by the National Election Commission. After Lee said the promise on the science belt made to Chungcheong was to win the region’s votes and not included in his campaign pledge book, the LFP sent an inquiry to the election watchdog to clarify his argument.


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

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