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President Pledges to Scrap Canal Project
29 June 2009
Korea Times

President Lee Myung-bak said Monday he would abandon the controversial project to build a cross-country canal, one of his key pledges during the presidential campaigns in 2007, in an effort to seek social integration.

Opposition Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Chung Sye-kyun, however, insisted Lee was misleading people because his administration has already initiated a multi-billion-dollar scheme to refurbish four major rivers, which critics argue may set the stage for the canal.

`` The central idea of the grand canal project is to link the Han River and the Nakdong River. The administration does not have such a plan to connect the two rivers. The project will not be initiated during my term of office,'' Lee said in a biweekly radio address.

The President, however, said he still believes the country needs the waterway to fight floods and droughts and for environmental protection.

On June 8, the government announced a plan to invest 22.2 trillion won (about $18 billion) in taxpayers' money to refurbish the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers by 2012. Dams, weirs and waterside leisure facilities are to be built along the rivers.

The DP alleged the project will cost the country more than 30 trillion won, but the administration intentionally deflated the amount to avoid a public backlash.

Opinion polls have showed a majority of people opposes the construction of the cross-country canal.

``I once said I would not pursue the waterway project unless it was backed by people. That is because I was concerned that the plan could become a politically contentious issue, dividing society,'' President Lee said. ``However, we cannot leave our rivers, as they are one of the most important resources in the 21st century.''

Lee said the annual average damage caused by floods amounted to 2.7 trillion won and the restoration expense reached 4.3 trillion won for the past five years. But opposition lawmakers claimed that the figure was exaggerated to justify the project.

``By securing enough water, improving its quality and restoring the ecosystem as well as preserving cultural legacies in the vicinity of rivers, it will be possible to increase the value added from the rivers,'' Lee said. ``Then, the investments in the rivers will be able to generate returns tens of times over.''

DP Chairman Chung said the river refurbishment project was nothing more than the canal project.

``If Lee really intends to give up the canal project, he should scrap the refurbishment plan,'' Chung said.
 

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Call for Reviewing Canal Project Grows
24 August 2007
Korea Times

By Kim Sue-young

Staff Reporter

Voices have arisen both from within and outside the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) calling for presidential nominee Lee Myung-bak's waterway project be either scrapped or changed.

The inland canal project was a flagship campaign pledge of the former Seoul mayor.

Many people raised concerns that the canal project could be environmentally destructive and unprofitable before the party's primary race held Sunday.

``The plan is fraught with controversy,'' a GNP official said. ``Party officials need to scrutinize the feasibility of the project before we officially present it as a campaign pledge.''

A day earlier, some party lawmakers claimed the project should be changed or abolished.

GNP lawmakers fear that the controversial pledge could be a public target of criticism in the lead up to the presidential race, party sources said.

Presidential hopefuls from liberal parties have already begun to assail the project, calling it a ``catastrophe'' or ``an obsolete and ignorant pledge.''

Public opinion is generally unfavorable.

Some polls conducted in June showed that 10 percent more people were against the canal project than for it.

Rep. Park Geun-hye, who ran neck-and-neck with Lee in the GNP primary, had constantly criticized the project in televised debates and rallies nationwide.

Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, who also ran unsuccessfully in the primary said, ``I hope Lee will not stick to the waterway project if he is selected as the party's nominee.''

Lee and the GNP should take more time to review the pledge and secure a public consensus, sources said.

Otherwise, the canal will fetter Lee who enjoys support of more than 50 percent, they added.

Lee's presidential camp claimed that he will propel the plan as presented but hinted at probable changes.

``A gigantic project like building the waterways evolves with continuous changes through discussions and phases,'' said Rep. Chung Doo-un, a confidant of Lee.

Lee's proposal, dubbed the ``Pan-Korea Grand Waterway,'' is to construct a cross-country canal to connect the nation's major northern and southern rivers.

He stressed that the waterways could help cut logistics costs approximately by one-third and implement balanced regional development.

The canal would be 3,100 kilometers long _ consisting of 17 subsidiary waterways _ and would take four years to complete at a cost of 14.1 trillion won, according to his election camp.

While serving as Seoul Mayor between 2002 and 2006, Lee presented people with a ``can-do'' image through the restoration of the Cheonggye stream, and the overhauling of the public transportation system.
 
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