The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Show proof

Democratic Party alleges expressway rerouted to benefit first lady; minister cancels project

By Korea Herald

Published : July 10, 2023 - 05:31

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The Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Won Hee-ryong said Thursday that he would cancel a project to construct an expressway linking Seoul to Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province.

The capital is surrounded by the province and the county of Yangpyeong, a subdivision of the province, is east of Seoul.

Won’s abrupt declaration was a response to the allegations raised by the opposition Democratic Party of Korea that the ministry rerouted the expressway to benefit first lady Kim Keon Hee’s family because her family grave site is near its endpoint.

But it was found that Yangpyeong-based officials of the Democratic Party have already demanded an alternative to the original route from two years ago.

In May 2021, shortly after the project passed a preliminary feasibility test, the then chairperson of the Yangpyeong Democratic Party Committee met with the chief executive of Yangpyeong County, who was also a member of the party, and delivered residents’ demand for an interchange in Gangha, a district of the county, in connection with the expressway project. The demand was delivered to the ministry.

The original plan has no interchange through which vehicles enter or leave the expressway. It is geographically inadequate to make an interchange in Gangha on the original route. So the demand for the installation of an interchange in Gangha meant that the route should be changed. The proper way to make an interchange in Gangha is to move down the endpoint of the expressway. Kim’s family happens to own land near the new endpoint.

In July last year, the Yangpyeong county office presented to the ministry three potential routes, including one that local Democratic Party officials demanded. The incumbent Yangpyeong county chief executive, who is affiliated with the ruling party, has also argued that a route with an interchange in Gangha is necessary. Since May, the ministry has been collecting public opinions on the alternative route with an interchange in Gangha that the county office suggested.

In a nutshell, the ministry did not change the original route to boost the real estate price of Kim's family grave site as the Democratic Party alleges, but it was local Democratic Party officials who demanded an alternative route two years ago.

Then the opposition party found out belatedly that Kim's family grave site is near the alternative route, and argues that the new route was drawn up as a special favor for Kim. It is an irrational argument.

Furthermore, her family grave site is not near the planned Gangha interchange but near the endpoint of the alternative expressway which will be connected to the Jungbu Naeryuk Expressway. The connected endpoint is a junction where vehicles cannot enter nor leave the expressways but can only transfer to the other highway. The new route will scarcely have any effect on the price of Kim’s family land. It is different from the site of former Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan’s house located near an interchange of the expressway linking Seoul to Sejong. Lee is one of the Democratic Party members who raised the allegations over the Yangpyeong expressway.

With huge protests from Yangpyeong residents, the Democratic Party argues the ministry should cancel its decision to cancel the expressway project. The project cancellation was sparked by its ill-founded allegations.

The government should have explained to people how it came to review an alternative to the original plan. But it abruptly declared the cancellation, condemning the Democratic Party's instigation. It reacted emotionally.

Considering the project passed a preliminary feasibility test, an expressway linking Seoul to Yangpyeong seems to be necessary. The project cancellation must be reconsidered for the sake of residents. The opposition party must present a clear proof of its claims. If it cannot, it must first apologize then request the government push the project again.