President misses Sejong City launch

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 2, 2012 - 20:16
  • Updated : Jul 2, 2012 - 20:16
After a decade of controversy, a new administrative city officially opened in South Chungcheong Province on Monday.

Government officials and lawmakers, including Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, attended the event to celebrate the birth of Sejong City. But President Lee Myung-bak was absent from the ceremony.

Spanning over 465 square kilometers of land, about 75 percent the size of Seoul, Sejong City will be home to 36 central government offices, including nine ministries and 16 state-run organizations.

The Prime Minister’s Office will first move to Sejong in September, and other ministries and agencies will complete their move before the end of this year, officials said.

Kim noted on Monday that over 13,000 people will reside in the city once the relocation is complete, and the population will grow to 300,000 by 2020.

“The government has been working hard to make it not just as an administrative city, but also as a high-brand city globally,” Kim said in his congratulatory speech.

On Monday, the main opposition Democratic United Party welcomed the opening of the new city, saying that it will help bring more balanced regional development.
Sejong Mayor Yoo Han-shik delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of Sejong City on Monday. (Yonhap News)

“Sejong City will also help ease overcrowding in Seoul and the surrounding area,” DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan said.

“Although this government has faced some obstacles in order to bring it back to square one, we have finally established the city,” he added.

The DUP chairman was referring to President Lee Myung-bak’s initial opposition to the city’s original plan. In 2008, the former Seoul Mayor Lee opposed the idea of moving the government agencies out of Seoul, claiming that it would hurt the capital’s global competitiveness.

Kim Han-gil, a senior DUP lawmaker, also criticized Lee on Monday for not attending the opening ceremony, saying, “President Lee has never visited Sejong even when he was near the city.”

Meanwhile, Moon Jae-in of DUP, who is a leading candidate for the presidency among liberals, said that he would help to establish Sejong as a new “administrative capital,” by setting up a second office of the National Assembly as well as Cheong Wa Dae.

The idea of creating Sejong City was first proposed by late President Roh Moo-hyun in 2002 as part of efforts to relieve the overcrowding of Seoul by moving the country’s capital to the central provinces of Chungcheong. But his plan faced a major setback when the Constitutional Court ruled in 2004 that Seoul must remain the capital.

President Lee also tried to scale down the original plan, proposing a new vision for Sejong as an industrial, science and education hub. But the National Assembly voted down his proposal in June 2010.

By Oh Kyu-wook (