Citizens of the Socho District in southern Seoul place an envelope containing cash into a box to raise funds to help restore the burned down Sungnyemun. / Yonhap
By Kim Yon-se
The next administration will initiate a donation campaign to help finance the restoration of the gutted National Treasure No. 1, Sungnyemun, also known as Namdaemun (Big Southern Gate).
President-elect Lee Myung-bak made the proposal during his meeting with members of his transition committee in Seoul, Tuesday.
Transition committee spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said the fundraising drive will start after Lee is sworn in as President on Feb. 25.
``I heard that the restoration of the National Treasure to its original form will cost about 20 billion won,'' the President-elect told the meeting. ``The government could allocate some of the budget. But how about pushing for restoration through donations by the public?''
Citing a suggestion by several Koreans residing abroad that they would participate in the donation campaign, Lee said he believes the privately-funded restoration would consolidate the people more. The Korea Times also received an inquiry from a foreigner in Hong Kong on ways of donating to the restoration of the gate. Like all Koreans, the foreign visitor to Namdaemum during his past trip, said he was also shocked to hear of the arson.
Transition committee Chairwoman Lee Kyung-sook said, ``Lee's proposal might be very reasonable in placating the saddened people.''
The Cultural Heritage Administration estimates that the restoration of the gate to its original form will cost about 20 billion won and it will take three years to complete the work.
Some netizens called the fund-raising campaign nothing but an event. ``The fire was caused by a lack of the proper security systems. The President-elect's proposal transfers the burden from the government to the people,'' a netizen said.
Netizens are accusing Lee of allowing people to freely enter Sungnyemun while serving as Seoul mayor between 2002 and 2006. The gate was first open to the public in March 2006.
A netizen said Lee's policies disrespected King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) who initiated the construction of the gate, and King Sejong the Great who created the Korean alphabet, hangeul.
Lee has the policy drive of English-emersion public education in which let students use only English in English classes from the first grade of the elementary school.
Some netizens criticize the President-elect for putting priority on relations with the United States and Japan, instead of making efforts for better relations with North Korea and for cherishing national traditions.
Cultural Heritage Administrator You Hong-june tendered resignation to President Roh Moo-hyun in Tuesday afternoon, saying he will take responsibility for the crumbled-down Sungnyemun.