Thursday, August 12, 2004

Seoul-ed Out 

The South Korean government wants to move the capital from Seoul to the Gongju-Yongi area, closer of the geographical centre of the RoK. While I appreciate the security concerns of the possibility of North Korean artillery pounding Seoul and its vicinity at a rate of half a million rounds per hour, the stated economic purpose of the move sounds like a load of bull---- to me:
"The new capital site was found to be the best among the candidate locations in terms of potential contribution to the nation's balanced regional development, ease of access and living environment,'' Lee said.
That sounds a whole lot like something cooked up by an African megalomanical ruler or some former Soviet pseudo-democracy. It's not quite the sort of well thought-out process of a modern democratic state.

The newspapers in the RoK (well, at least the ones that have English web sites) mostly aren't pleased, but I can't tell how much of that displeasure comes from the fact that they're all based in Seoul: Only the Choson Ilbo doesn't seem to have a critical editorial, instead aiming their sights on the opposition GNP for their lack of a definite position on this issue.

And that doesn't even cover the real meat of this one: the ludicrous idea that Seoul's overpopulation can be solved by moving the seat of government. The overwhelming majority of Seoul's residents work in the commercial sector (as in any major world metropolis) and companies don't really give a flying fack about where the government works.

The only nations with some justification for building a planned capital are federal countries where the constituent parts all agree that the capital should not be buried in the middle of one subdivision. Hence we have Canberra, Ottawa, and Washington, DC. Well, Ottawa was a geostrategic choice as well, but nobody expected it to overtake Toronto or Montreal in population, and indeed it didn't.

Seoul is the historic capital of the Korean nation, and moving the capital isn't going to alleviate the regional disproportions in development and population. There are considerably more cost-effective means of protecting the government from attack (insert "Undisclosed Location" jokes here). I guess we'll have to see just how far and how successful will be this expensive attempt by the RoK government to dramatically change the people's freely chosen lifestyle.
From what I've seen, it sounds as if the South Korean government's main reason was because of Seoul's proximity to the DPRK. All these economic excuses were cooked up out of fear that the North Koreans would take the moving of the capitol as a prepeation for war.
I certainly agree that the security issue is a good reason to get away from the DMZ, but moving the entire administration at a price of who-knows-how-many-billion-won seems a bit impractical. I think the real problem with this idea is that it'll take some time: I see the collapse/invasion of the DPRK happening within the next 10 years at the latest, far earlier than the completion of the government's move south.

Well, I suppose a country as messed up as the DPRK might just buy all the economic and demographic bull that the RoK's using as the excuse.
Indeed. I suppose it all depends on which side of the bed Kim-Jong il wakes up on every day.
I thought Kim Sr. or Jr. would've invented a bed that automatically raised the person out of it by now. ;)
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