Relocation is not the issue

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Relocation is not the issue

The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea withdrew an ambitious campaign platform proposing to move the National Assembly from the capital to the administrative municipality of Sejong City in the Chungcheong region a day after it posted the idea on its webpage. Relocating the legislature is a grave matter that needs to be thoroughly and lengthily explored.

The party was indiscreet to float the idea as a pork-barrel project for a constituency. While posting the list of official campaign platforms by the party on the homepage, Lee Young-sup, head of the campaign policy team, proposed the National Assembly move to Sejong City to resolve the inefficiency of having civil servants commute back and forth to report to the legislature and achieve decentralization for more balanced growth.

Kim Chong-in, interim leader of the Minjoo Party, stepped in when the proposal raised an uproar, as relocating the National Assembly cannot be simply addressed from the perspective of balanced development of the country and administrative efficiency. Kim said it was still early to pursue the move, as the Constitutional Court in October 2004 ruled that Seoul must remain the capital, although the party will propose opening a legislative branch office in Sejong City.

The move to Chungcheong was an ambitious and game-changing pledge by then-presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun, who ended up beating his conservative rival Lee Hoi-chang in the 2002 election. Roh’s votes in Chungcheong overwhelmed Lee’s by 500,000. The plan was thrown out after the constitutional court ruling in 2004. We can only suspect the Minjoo Party was aiming for a similar campaign feat by revisiting a plan that had already been declared unconstitutional.

The Saenuri Party also criticized its rival party for stealing its campaign platform, as the idea of establishing a legislative branch in Sejong City had been a policy the party’s campaign chief in Chungcheong planned to announce. Regardless of whose idea it originally was, it should be explored, as it can save the four hours of commuting by government officials for an hour’s report to lawmakers.

But the problem’s essence stems from lawmakers’ outdated perspective and ways of doing work. By doing away with their demands of paperwork and personally reporting to government officials, they could resolve much without having to spend a fortune to build a legislative outlet in Sejong City.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 30
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