A shame­ful can­cel­la­tion

JoongAng Daily - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment’s plan to drop its project to es­tab­lish a state-run cen­ter to cater to tourism for the Dokdo Is­lands has been met with fiery crit­i­cism. The gov­ern­ment came up with the idea after Ja­pan claimed sovereignty over the un­in­hab­ited group of rocky islets in the East Sea in 2008. The project was al­lo­cated 3 bil­lion won ($2.74 mil­lion) from this year’s fis­cal bud­get and the gov­ern­ment last month ad­ver­tised pub­lic bid­ding for the con­struc­tion of the cen­ter, then sud­denly called it off.

Prime Min­is­ter Chung Hong-won headed a cab­i­net meet­ing on Nov. 1 in which it was de­cided that the plan would be nul­li­fied, but the decision was not dis­closed. The gov­ern­ment only ad­mit­ted that it called off the bid due to safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns after me­dia re­ported on the is­sue. The For­eign Min­istry was op­posed to the plan be­cause it would al­low Ja­pan to win fa­vor with the pub­lic by ar­gu­ing that con­struc­tion on the islet could pol­lute the sea.

The prob­lem lies in the botched pol­icy-mak­ing pro­ce­dure. The Dokdo cen­ter must take into ac­count an ar­ray of is­sues — sovereignty over the islets, pub­lic opin­ion and the safety of tourists, and the Korea-Ja­pan re­la­tion­ship. Can­cel­la­tion of the plan also in­di­cates a shift in a pol­icy made by for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der Pres­i­dent Lee Myung- bak. Yet the gov­ern­ment has been nei­ther thor­ough nor trans­par­ent about the re­ver­sal of the decision. It did not bother to co­or­di­nate opin­ions of gov­ern­ment of­fices.

It raises the ques­tion of whether the bud­get­ing and con­struc­tion bid had gone through proper gov­ern­ment pro­ce­dures in the first place. De­spite its po­ten­tial diplo­matic ram­i­fi­ca­tions, the project ap­pears to be en­tirely led by the Min­istry of Ocean and Fish­eries. If the plan was ac­cord­ing to proper gov­ern­ment pro­ce­dures, it could not have been dumped sud­denly in a meet­ing. The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment is­sued a state­ment call­ing the can­cel­la­tion the fruit of its diplo­matic en­deav­ors. Worse, the process has not been ex­plained to the pub­lic. Sovereignty over Dokdo is a sen­si­tive so­cial is­sue be­cause it touches on anti-Ja­panese sen­ti­ments. The gov­ern­ment should have clearly ex­plained the mat­ter to the pub­lic and sought un­der­stand­ing be­fore the can­cel­la­tion.

Unity is im­por­tant to wag­ing a strong case against another party. The gov­ern­ment can­not have the pub­lic’s support if it hides things. It is em­bar­rass­ing that our pub­lic pol­icy on Dokdo has been leaked this way. The gov­ern­ment must get its act to­gether and stop look­ing un­or­ga­nized and in­com­pe­tent to its peo­ple.

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