A strange solutionThe ruling Democratic Party (DP), which commands a super majority in the National Assembly, is pushing to move the legislature and presidential office out of Seoul. The idea was first raised by DP floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon in his address to the new 21st National Assembly. Rep. Lee Nak-yon, former prime minister and a frontrunner among presidential hopefuls, backed the idea, saying the relocation of the administrative capital is not impossible if the rival parties reach an agreement — or through special legislation.
Kim Boo-kyum, a DP lamaker, said he “fully” supported the idea. Other influential members — South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo and Rep. Kim Doo-kwan — also joined the chorus. Pitching in on the idea in a party conference, Kim proposed to form a special committee on completing the Sejong Administrative City with the moving of the National Assembly and presidential office.
Why the relocation scheme — struck down by the Constitution Court when President Roh Moo-hyun pushed for it as one of his campaign promises — has suddenly gained momentum is bewildering. The move raises suspicion about attempting to divert public attention and outrage over the spike in housing prices from policy failures. Even left-wing Justice Party head Sim Sang-jung warned the proposal should not be aiming to mitigate public disgruntlement over the government’s real estate measures. The move should be condemned if such an important plan that affects the country’s identity was devised to cover up its real estate policy flop.
In 2004 under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the Constitutional Court found the relocation plan “unconstitutional” as the constitution of “customs” regard Seoul as Korea’s administrative capital. The Roh government had to tweak the project and moved some government offices in Gwacheon to Sejong City.
The Constitution would have to be rewritten to move the Blue House and National Assembly. DP floor leader Kim argues the relocation is possible without revising the Constitution or going to a referendum vote if the new Assembly enacts a special law on the plan. Given its unilateral ways since it won 176 seats in the 300-member legislature, the DP may well push ahead with it even without tapping public consensus. But the relocation is not possible without public consent.
The country is grappling with the worst crisis in decades due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even after government handouts to every household, people are scraping by. This is not the time to leisurely argue over relocating the Blue House and National Assembly. The ruling party is only inviting more fighting from the opposition camp.