Capital’s policies sow confusionThe Seoul metropolitan government has been causing controversies through its ambitious pork-barrel projects, which it has undertaken without first consulting citizens and the central government. Last week, it announced it was reconstructing Gwanghwamun, the historic space and streak at the heart of Seoul.
The ambitious plan, which would entirely redesign the downtown district, has been met with opposition from the central government and public backlash. Interior Minister Kim Boo-kyum and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon had a public spat over the issue.
The blueprint for the redesign project included removing a part of the government complex building to make room for a public park. In an interview, Kim outright said the government cannot accept the Seoul city government’s blueprint, as the Ministry of Interior and Safety was consulted first. It is rare for the central government to have a public fallout with a city government headed by the same party. The fiasco can largely be blamed on the rashness of the city government.
The construction of a new train line to a subway station at Gwanghwamun also requires approval by the central government, as it cannot be carried out without the state budget. Removing the iconic statues of King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun-sin also caused strong controversy.
A huge reconstruction plan should be based on farsighted and meaningful vision. But the Seoul city government has mostly been impulsive with its large redevelopment projects. For instance, it suddenly stopped the renovation work at the area surrounding the Sewoon Arcade in Euljiro, central Seoul, at the last minute because of public opposition to the destruction of long-established restaurants, such as the cold noodle shop Eulji Myeonok. His decision put a renovation project that had been going on for 13 years on hold. Last summer, Park caused a major upset to the housing prices in the capital after announcing a plan to develop the vast area of Yongsan and Yeouido, central and western Seoul. People are beginning to lose patience with the eagerness and whims of this three-term mayor, who has been in charge of the city management for nine straight years.
JoongAng Sunday Jan. 26-27, Page 30