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Assembly session focuses on science belt

Opposition urges Lee government to keep election pledge

Legislators on Monday continued to uphold their regional interests over the location of the envisioned multi-trillion-won science-business belt and pounded the government with questions on the safety of nuclear power plants.

Opposition lawmakers called on the Lee Myung-bak administration to stick to the president’s campaign pledge to locate the science complex in Chungcheong while ruling party assemblymen hailing from the southeastern region of Yeongnam (Busan, Daegu and Gyeongsang provinces) slammed the recent cancellation of a plan to build an international airport there.

The government announced late last month its decision to ditch the airport project in the southeast, pouring cold water on Yeongnam’s politicians and local administrations who had been competing to win the airport a month ahead of the April 27 by-elections.

All eyes are now on where the proposed research and development facilities including a basic sciences research institute and a heavy ion accelerator would go.

President Lee said a panel headed by his science minister and consisting of related vice ministers and scientists will make the decision within the first half of this year. Lee’s chief-of-staff Yim Tae-hee last week denied news reports that the research institute and the heavy ion accelerator may be built in two different towns.
Education Minister Lee Ju-ho answers a question from a lawmaker at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap News)
Education Minister Lee Ju-ho answers a question from a lawmaker at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap News)

Under a special law, the international science-business belt consists of “bases” for basic research and development, and “functional zones” for applied research, R&D and business facilities. Some politicians say branches of the basic sciences R&D institute should go to different regions, but nothing about the branches is mentioned in the law.

All opposition legislators from Chungcheong urged the government during a parliamentary interpellation session Monday to keep Lee’s election pledge.

Main opposition Democratic Party’s Rep. Yang Seung-jo disclosed a video clip of ruling Grand National Party leader Ahn Sang-soo vowing to locate the science belt in Chungcheong during last year’s by-election campaign in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province.

Minor Liberty Forward Party’s Rep. Lee Myung-soo said the government “must implement a (campaign) pledge that it prepared for and publicly announced.”

The Lee administration last year said it will locate the science belt in South Chungcheong Province as an alternative to the scheduled relocation of government ministries there. But ever since the attempt to revise the Sejong administrative town scheme was rejected by the National Assembly in July, politicians from other parts of the country have eyed the high-tech facilities.

Also during the parliamentary session Monday, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said his government cannot scrap its policy to develop nuclear power as a main source of energy.

“It is necessary to make efforts to develop renewable energy sources and we must be cautious about nuclear power plants, but it is difficult to give up or alter policies (on nuclear power),” Kim said in response to a lawmaker’s assertion that Seoul should review its energy policies that rely heavily on nuclear power.

About the GNP’s planned legislation to set up a government committee dedicated to nuclear safety, Science Minister Lee Ju-ho said Seoul was considering making it a presidential panel.

By Kim So-hyun (