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Title Yeongi-Gongju top capital site
The government selected Yeongi-Gongju yesterday as the most favorable locale to replace Seoul as the nation's administrative capital.
An 80-member evaluation committee selected Yeongi-Gongju among four contenders, all in the nation's central area, said the Presidential Committee on Administrative Capital Relocation, an advisory body to President Roh Moo-hyun.
"We're hoping to hear more from the public and government agencies. But we intend to respect the results of the committee evaluation the most," Lee Choon-hee, committee deputy chief, told a news conference yesterday. His remarks suggested that there is little possibility the committee would overturn the results.The Yeongi-Gongju area, some 160 kilometers from Seoul and 10 kilometers from the two metropolitan cities - Daejeon and Cheongju - scored 88.96 points, the highest in all major criteria except the cost of development. Gongju-Nonsan scored 80.37, ranking No. 2.
The main considerations of the screening committee were balanced national development, road access, environmental conditions and the cost of development. The committee, however, declined to provide details on the sub criteria of the evaluation.
The area, nearby the Cheongju airport, is in the vicinity of the Gyeongbu Expressway, which connects Seoul and the second-largest city, Busan. During the late President Park Chung-hee's tenure in the 1960s, it was considered a strong candidate for the administrative capital because of its "feng shui" friendly location. Feng shui is the study of harmonizing objects with nature.
Despite the fierce resistance from the opposition parties, civic groups and local governments, the announcement, which has been postponed from July 1, is expected to accelerate the process of President Roh Moo-hyun's controversial plan to build a new administrative capital. The advisory committee reported the evaluation results to Roh yesterday morning.
After five public hearings on the evaluation results held across the country, the committee is expected to announce a winner sometime next month. The nomination will go to the president for final approval and the construction of the facilities in the new capital is expected to begin in 2007.
"We intend to stick to our original schedule which was released last year," said Lee. He said the committee will announce a final list of government institutions to be moved by the end of the month.
Last month, Roh said he was determined to push for the capital relocation plan and "overrule all criticism and opposition." The plan was one of his presidential campaign pledges in 2002. Roh claims that moving the capital away from Seoul would help break up its concentration of power and wealth.
Critics, however, have questioned the necessity and the cost of the move, although major political parties all endorsed the plan before the April legislative elections. They feared that not doing so would lose a large number of votes in the region.
Park Geun-hye who leads the main opposition Grand National Party, last Friday called for Roh to discuss the project further with political party leaders before a final decision is made. She also proposed that the National Assembly set up a special committee to examine the feasibility of the relocation plan.
Seoul city officials have staged protests downtown to call for a general referendum, insisting the relocation lacks national consensus.
The Seoul city council also said it would join in petitions to the Constitutional Court, asking that the move be declared procedurally wrongly and unconstitutional. "The decision is not the end of disputes but it would only create more confusion among people," said Chung Sung-ok, who leads a civic group, The National Coalition Against Relocation of Capital City.
The group consisting of more than 100 university professors is spearheading the legal movement against the plan.
The government earlier requested provincial governments to recommend experts for the screening of the four contending areas. Gyeonggi Province and Incheon City declined.

Source: The Korea Herald
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