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[Editorial] ‘Science-business belt’

Regarding the new “science-business belt” project, President Lee Myung-bak may believe that his administration is free to select any location for it, whether in Sejong City or anywhere. We cannot disagree, but we also consider the people of Chungcheong have justifiable reason to insist that the multitrillion won (multibillion dollar) project should be awarded to the central region.

The science complex to house world-class basic science research organizations and related business facilities had originally been conceived as an alternative to building an administrative city in the South Chungcheong Province. The Lee Myung-bak government proposed the project as it sought to cancel the Sejong City plan, which had been established by the previous administration.

Lee’s efforts to revise the special law on the administrative city ― in order not to move central administration organizations to Sejong City 150 kilometers south of Seoul ― was foiled by the National Assembly where opposition parties were joined by a group of rebels in the ruling Grand National Party in a vote last June. Thus the administrative city is being built as originally planned.

When the government proposed that the science-business belt would be built near Sejong City, they cited its proximity to the existing Daejeon-Daedeok Science Complex, where over 500 private and public research facilities and education institutions are clustered. Its central location in the country adds to its merits. These conditions remain the strong factors in finalizing the location of the new science complex which will now be decided by a 20-man committee launched this week.

The president said the location of the science belt would be announced during the first half of the year, indicating free choice by the committee. Some predict the project could be awarded to the Gyeongsang region to placate public dissent there caused by the recent cancellation of an international airport project.

The people of Chungcheong are afraid that the government could abandon them, and Lee Hoi-chang’s Liberty Forward Party based in the Chungcheong provinces vows a “life and death struggle” to deter the “scattering” of the science facilities to other parts of the country. The science belt project promises to raise political noise for some time but the administration should reject any political considerations and stick to purely scientific and economic principles. The Chungcheong politicians had better remain quiet if they want the government to make a reasonable and just decision.
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