Sejong City plans still under review, no decisions made

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Sejong City plans still under review, no decisions made

The government has yet to settle on any specific revised plan for the Sejong City project, the nation’s long-proposed new administrative capital, but will present a final draft by the end of this year, the Blue House and other government officials said yesterday.

Prime Minister Chung Un-chan will present alternatives for the relocation plan and the Blue House, or other related ministries, will finalize the government’s proposal, officials said.

In a meeting yesterday with leading social and political figures from the Chungcheong provinces, his home region, Chung said, “Nothing has been decided [on the Sejong project], although we are studying various options. I think there should be a win-win situation for both Korea and the Chungcheong provinces.”

Chung’s remarks came after the daily Chosun Ilbo reported yesterday that the Blue House has narrowed its options for the controversial multitrillion won (multibillion dollar) project to two - entirely scrapping the plan or moving only the ministries of culture, health, labor, environment and education.

Under the original plan, nine ministries, two agencies and two smaller units were supposed to relocate to the city in Gongju, South Chungcheong. To discuss the plans, the daily reported, Chung and leaders of the ruling Grand National Party met last Sunday, which is possibly when the options emerged.

However, a high-ranking official with the Blue House said yesterday that the government is “entirely changing the characteristic of the city that previously was defined as an administrative city .?.?. Unless the city serves administrative duties, it will be right not to relocate any of the government ministries and agencies. You first need to redefine the city and look for ministries that are considered optimal.”

Another official at the presidential office said that the option of relocating five ministries as reported by the Chosun Ilbo is “completely fictional.”

He said, “Do you think the administration has made such a fuss about the Sejong project revision only to reduce the number of government institutions by a few?”

Chung, former president of Seoul National University, was inaugurated late last month despite harsh protests from the opposition Democratic and Liberal Forward parties, mainly due to his openly negative views of the project that was first initiated by the late President Roh Moo-hyun. Chung has consistently claimed the project should be revised, citing the alleged inefficiency it would cause.

The Lee Myung-bak administration and the GNP leadership have supported Chung’s view that the city should adopt measures to transform itself into a self-sufficient city. One idea is for it to become a mecca for science and technology.

The opposition parties, however, demand the government implement the project as approved by the National Assembly four years ago. The project is very popular with provincial residents. Chungcheong, at the center of the southern peninsula, has played a decisive role in presidential races before and is expected to do so in upcoming elections. The minor opposition Liberty Forward Party, in particular, has a stronghold in the region.

By Seo Seung-wook, Seo Ji-eun []

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