Unnecessary uproar on Daedeok

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Unnecessary uproar on Daedeok

The government officially named Daedeok District, in Daejeon, as the destination for a 5.2 trillion won ($4.8 billion) science and technology hub. But it is beyond comprehension why it had to waste so much time and energy - raising a racket in the process - only to go back to the drawing board. All that the government has done is to deepen the divide among the provinces.

Daedeok will be home to the project’s key element - the new National Basic Science Institute and Korea Rare Isotope Accelerator. To appease the other candidate areas, research arms will be located in North Gyeongsang and Gwangju - at an extra cost of 1.7 trillion won.

The project should not have caused such an uproar. President Lee Myung-bak had promised to create a science belt during his presidential campaign. Then the government attempted to cut a deal to nullify a plan to build an administrative municipality in the Chungcheong region by establishing the new science belt in the area. When that failed, the option of creating a science belt in the Chungcheong region was opened up to other areas, stirring heated competition for the right to host the multibillion-dollar project. What should have been a science project turned into a political battle, triggering intense regional division.

Few would argue that Daedeok, already established as a scientific incubator, is the most qualified of the candidates. Yet the public anger and skepticism is due to the government’s meek and unreliable administration of the process. The appraisal should have been left entirely in the hands of experts. Yet the Blue House and the ruling party irresponsibly interfered with comments in favor of Daedeok. It is no wonder other candidates have raised questions of fairness with extreme measures such as hunger strikes and petitions written in blood.

Now the decision has been made, such protests are meaningless. The government won’t likely change its mind after all the controversy but it should apologize to the public for raising such an uproar. Then it must reflect on its method of administrating major state projects.

We need a strong legal mechanism to prevent reckless campaign pledges that do more harm than good. Cost-sharing of major infrastructure projects between the central and local government can also help to ease unnecessary competition. Foreign experts could be recruited to oversee the evaluation to ensure fairness. Radical measures are needed to put an end to the squandering of public opinion and tax money.
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