Lawmakers Divided Over Status of Sejong City
Lawmakers remained divided on a special bill to confirm the legal status and provincial authority of Sejong City, an administrative capital currently under construction in South Chungcheong Province since 2005.
Meetings to review the details of the bill have taken place at the National Assembly amidst rising concerns from the region and opposition parties that the Lee Myung-bak administration is seeking to downscale the so-called Multifunctional Administrative City (MAC) project, commonly known as Sejong City.
``It is apparent that the Lee administration is intent on downsizing Sejong City. It has slashed the budget for the project and has not yet announced the list of government agencies to be relocated there," Rep. Lee Sang-min of the minor opposition Liberal Forward Party (LFP) said Tuesday. He heads a party policy committee with strong political ties to the Chungcheong Provinces.
``Such negligence toward the MAC project constitutes a clear violation of the law governing the construction of Sejong City," Lee added.
He also urged the Ministry of Public Administration and Security to finalize the list of the government agencies to be housed in Sejong City.
The National Assembly Public Administration and Security Committee's failure to reach a consensus is expected to further delay the enactment of the essential legislation that will stipulate the extent of the administrative authority of the new city.
The committee decided to give Sejong City provincial status, but excluded some essential governing rights inherent to a province, such as an educational administration.
``Clauses for limiting the provincial authority of Sejong City should be removed to achieve its original purpose," Rep. Hong Jae-hyong of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) said.
^MAC is a signature project of balanced development initiated by the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration.
The essence of the project is to relocate some central government agencies and affiliated organizations to the Yeongi-Gongju area in South Chungcheong Province and creating, for the first time in modern Korean history, a separate administrative hub by 2030.
Opponents of the project still maintain that Sejong City does not meet the requirements of a province, as it is unlikely to achieve a population of 500,000 or more, which is a necessary component for self-sufficiency.
In order to be designated a metropolitan city with provincial governing status, a city must have a population of more than 1 million.
The original architects of the plan, during the previous administration, believed that the undertaking would serve as a new engine of growth in the region, bringing an influx of government officials and their families.
Korea has so far invested more than 4 trillion won in the project. Ministries are expected to start relocation as early as 2012.