Sejong in public eye after Yoon's pledges to make it the 'real capital'
Yoon made several vows regarding Sejong — located about 125 kilometers (78 miles) south of Seoul — when he was running for president, stressing he would build new cultural, educational and medical infrastructure there to help it replace Seoul as Korea’s capital.
Yoon’s promises included opening a second presidential office in Sejong; relocating major branches of the National Assembly from Yeouido, western Seoul, to Sejong; designating Sejong and nearby Daejeon as free economic zones to attract foreign investment; building a special type of cancer treatment center in the city that uses heavy particle accelerators; and forming various complexes to entice research institutes, young entrepreneurs and media organizations.
Yoon’s transition committee has yet to mention any specifics about the president-elect’s promises for Sejong, but it did announce plans to launch a special committee on balanced regional growth late last week, raising hopes among Sejong officials.
Sejong was formally established in 2012, years after former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun suggested the nation relocate its capital to a new location in the central Chungcheong provinces. The ambitious move was intended to resolve severe urbanization and pursue balanced regional growth.
The Constitutional Court, however, didn’t approve and said the capital must remain in Seoul.
The Roh administration subsequently revised its blueprint and decided to relocate some government ministries and organizations to the new area, calling it a “special self-governing city.”
Today, Sejong is sometimes dubbed the “administrative capital.”
So far, over 70 government organizations and state-backed research institutes have moved to Sejong, including the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Economy and Finance. Other major ministries and state organs remain in Seoul, including the Blue House, National Assembly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense.
“I’ll take the ‘administrative’ out of the ‘Sejong administrative capital’ and turn [the city] into [Korea’s] real capital,” Yoon said during a visit to Sejong, weeks before he was elected. “In order to make [Sejong Korea’s] real capital, it needs cultural, educational and medical facilities. It can’t be a real capital with public offices alone.”
At the time, Yoon underscored that he would hold a Cabinet meeting every other week at his second office in Sejong so that the city could truly “serve its function” as the nation’s capital.
On a related note, Yoon’s transition committee has also launched a separate task force to review steps to move the main presidential office from the grandiose Blue House to the Government Complex Seoul in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul. President Moon Jae-in had earlier made the same pledge, but ultimately failed to fulfill it due to security reasons, given Gwanghwamun’s heavy traffic and dense space of office buildings.
The Government Complex Seoul currently houses several government offices including the Unification Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The Korean National Police Agency formed a special team last Friday dedicated to the Gwanghwamun relocation initiative and said it would cooperate with Yoon’s transition committee to discuss logistical matters.
BY KIM BANG-HYUN, LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]