Minjoo vows to move AssemblyThe main opposition party made a grand election pledge to relocate the legislature from Seoul to the administrative hub of Sejong City, central Korea, but backed down one day later.
The Minjoo Party of Korea posted Sunday afternoon a series of pledges for the April 13 general elections on its homepage. Among them, the party included a promise to relocate the National Assembly to Sejong Metropolitan Autonomous City in order to improve administrative efficiency and strengthen the National Assembly’s ability to check the administration. The party promised to open a branch office of the National Assembly in Sejong before the end of this year and relocate the entire legislature before the 20th National Assembly completes its term in April 2020.
Located 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) south of Seoul, Sejong City is the country’s administrative center, created in 2012 as the new home for 36 ministries and government agencies and 10,452 civil servants.
“Public servants are wasting time having to frequently visit the National Assembly [to report to the lawmakers],” Lee Yong-sup, head of the campaign pledge team, told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday. “The National Assembly must move to the Sejong City to resolve this inefficiency.”
The ruling Saenuri Party was critical of the pledge. “This is a typical populist promise aimed at capturing Chungcheong votes,” said Rep. Won Yoo-chul, floor leader of the Saenuri Party. “If the National Assembly is moved to Sejong, public servants in Seoul must visit there frequently, and that’s just as inefficient.”
First proposed as an election pledge by then-presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun in 2002, the project has undergone much trouble over the years. Even after its approval by the National Assembly, the plan to relocate the country’s capital city to South Chuncheong was ruled as unconstitutional in 2004.
After winning the December 2007 presidential election, Lee Myung-bak tried scrapping the plan, saying it would be folly to move government offices so far from Seoul. He offered, instead, a plan to build a self-sufficient science, education and business center there. But Lee’s plan faced resistance not only from the opposition, but from the ruling party as well, particularly President Park Geun-hye, then a lawmaker and a major Lee opponent.
The Constitutional Court ruled in October 2004 that the nation’s capital must remain in Seoul. The court reasoned that, while there is no express provision in the Constitution naming Seoul as the capital, the capital must be the location of the highest constitutional institutions, namely the National Assembly and the president.
The 2004 ruling was interpreted as a ban on the relocation of the legislature and the presidential office as well as the judiciary. Subsequently, only some administrative ministries and agencies were relocated to Sejong.
“The constitution can be amended, and our political circumstances may see various changes in the future, so I believe we can discuss the relocation of the National Assembly as a long-term project,” Kim said during his meeting with April 13 general election candidates in Daejeon and South Chungcheong constituencies.
He also reiterated the promise of creating the legislature’s branch office in Sejong as a first step.
“Creating the proximity between the administration and the legislature will improve administrative efficiency,” Kim said. “To this end, we promise to build a branch of the legislature in Sejong.”
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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