Wednesday, December 11, 2002

The race to the Blue House continues. International papers are flattering themselves further into thinking the primary issue is the South-US relations in the face of rising anti-US sentiment. This has some backing as protests continue. The US keeps apologising and the Koreans keep rejecting them as insincere. The whole situation is a lose-lose cycle that probably won’t end, it will simply die down. At best there will be a token revision of the SOFA resulting in picayune or no changes.

The recent meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Armitage and President DJ highlighted the chasm between the two sides. The Koreans want a scapegoat to point the finger of blame and to take punishment while the US prefer to put it down to a series of factors culminating in an unfortunate accident that is not actually anybody’s fault. I tend to agree with the US, blaming someone won’t prevent it happening again, whereas finding what errors occurred and rectifying systems and processes to ensure that such a sequence of events cannot recur is far more important.

Another developing controversy in the pre-election days has been the meeting between candidate Lee Hoi-Chang and US Ambassador Hubbard. I tend to agree with the argument against this meeting. At least, the Ambassador should have displayed objectivity by meeting both candidates or even publicly offering to meet the other candidate given that he had agreed to meet Mr Lee. Perhaps he did, I don’t know the whole story.

And finally I’d like to redirect attention to more domestic issues of the election. Colleagues at work informed me that Lee Hoi-Chang had expressed his intention to merge the Ministry of Planning and Budget and the Ministry of Finance and Economy back into a super-sized ministry. The MPB was formed in 1999 after merging the Board of Planning and Budget and the Office of National Budget. The move was motivated by perceptions that the Ministry of Finance and Economy wielded too much power over the economy and that public sector reforms could be better implemented if reformers were given greater budgetary power. Re-merging the two ministries would be a big step back to the past and more so as the MPB in its short existence has managed to increase its size quite significantly especially with the recent addition of the Public Funds Management Bureau. But that is not actually the issue I wished to discuss, although I reserve the right to return to it at a later date.

The issue is the transfer of the Administrative Capital to Daejon. I oppose this idea. Firstly, I work for the Administration and have no desire to live in Daejeon (no offence for anyone who lives there, I’m sure it’s a lovely place). Secondly, as the opponents to this move suggest, the cost is prohibitive and any more of the administration is going to have massive repercussions on business, economy and society for the whole country and in particular Seoul and Daejon. Now, it’s true that many countries have administrative capitals that are not necessarily the business hub of the country including US, Canada, and Australia. However, after 600 years of being a capital city, bringing about such a massive change would not be easy. Moving buildings would be the easy part compared to altering/modifying/buidling/changing the infrastructure and more importantly the mind-set of the people. I can’t help but think this is an ill-conceived and shallow vote grabbing propaganda mechanism that that should be quelled immediately.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui