Former aides to Lee decry 4-rivers project finding

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Former aides to Lee decry 4-rivers project finding

Following the Board of Audit and Inspection’s announcement of the results of their investigation into the faulty four-rivers restoration project, a signature project under the Lee Myung-bak administration, the former president’s aides lashed out and said the results were “absurd.”

This comes after the board said on Wednesday that then Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs followed Lee’s orders to fold a cross-country canal project into the four-rivers project.

Park Jeong-ha, Lee’s former spokesman, released a statement yesterday emphasizing the two projects “have nothing to do with each other” and that the four-rivers project was developed for environmental reasons in light of global climate change.

“President Lee said that he gave up on the cross-country canal multiple times,” Park said. He added, “It’s a pity this has become a political issue departing from the concept of trying to save the four-rivers project.”

But the Park Geun-hye Blue House spokesman said following the board’s announcement about the canal project, “If true, it’s a big issue that deceives the people and damages the country.”

Ruling and opposition party lawmakers agreed Thursday to establish a standing committee later this month to examine the report.

One of Lee’s aides, who asked to remain anonymous, told the JoongAng Ilbo over the phone that, “After former President Lee expressed he intends to give up the Pan-Korea Grand Waterway project in June 2008, he expressed numerous times afterwards that he will give up the project.

“Just looking at the four-rivers project made by the Transport Ministry, it shows that the canal project and the four-rivers project are fundamentally different.”

“There are aspects where the canal project and the four-rivers project are not completely different,” he said, but the logistics and operational aspects of the four-rivers project “were completely” different and that “it doesn’t make sense to say that [the Lee administration] was responsible for collusion in the bidding process.”

The four-rivers project, first developed in 2009, came under fire for collusion allegations, and continues to face backlash after the latest announcement by the board, leading to civilian protests and an outcry in the National Assembly.

The board said that in the midst of planning the project, the Transport Ministry received a notice from Lee’s presidential office which said that depending on the situation, the canal project may make a comeback, but the former president’s aide said, “With an administration change, how can the scrapped canal project continue? It’s nonsense.”

The board concluded that the Lee administration was responsible for the bidding collusion between construction companies and for the inflated costs of the project.

Other critics were critical that the board, which conducted a probe over three steps, came up with different results each time.

BY KANG TAE-HWA, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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