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Daejeon to host new science belt

Rival regions rage, claim decision was made on political motivation


The nation’s multi-trillion won science belt project took its first step on Monday with Daejeon selected as the host city.

A government-private committee said Monday that Daejeon, some 164 kilometers south of Seoul, will have the National Basic Science Institute and a particle accelerator that will be completed in the region over the next seven years.

Daejeon, which already has Daedeok Science Town, a research and development district, received higher marks on the availability of quality researchers and good R&D infrastructure facilities among five candidate regions, the committee said.

Cheongwon, Yeongi and Cheonan, all within 40 kilometers of Daejeon, will carry out associated research and development activities.

The science belt project, which will require 5.2 trillion won ($4.7 billion), is one of President Lee Myung-bak’s campaign pledges which have been embroiled in political controversies for years.

“The project is aimed at attracting talented scientists and engineers from all around the world so that they study creative knowledge and secure original technology not just for Korea but for the future of all human kind,” said Education, Science and Technology Minister Lee Ju-ho, who is the head of the committee.

“By creating more than 3,000 quality jobs in science and engineering, the government plans to prevent talented Korean youngsters from leaving the country and to attract those who say abroad,” he said.

However, disputes regarding the mega project continue even after the selection of Daejeon.

While Chungcheong Province expressed satisfaction with the result, other regions, especially Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces, fiercely opposed the location of science belt, calling the review process unfair.

North Gyeongsang Province said in a statement that the selection process “was affected by political logic, not by objective and fair judgment.”

Gov. Kim Kwang-yong, who began a hunger strike on Friday, also hinted at a lawsuit.

“If any problem is found in any stage of the whole process, the province will reconsider the construction of a new nuclear power plant and its nuclear fuel disposal site,” Kim added.

After Gwangju failed to host the project, Mayor Kang Un-tae also said he was seeking countermeasures against the “illegal and unfair process.”

About such criticism, however, the education minister denied any political influence in the process, reaffirming that he and other committee members have made the decision following the related law strictly.

Under a special law introduced in April, the committee is now required to finalize specific plans of the project within this year, such as the location and size of individual research districts and the operation of the National Basic Science Institute.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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