Center of Issue, Sejong1)
Recently the debate on relocation of the administrative capital, which started in the 1970s under former president Park Chunghee, has surfaced. In the 1970s, the policy was abandoned, but Roh Moohyun, former president, proposed the relocation policy once more. Roh was seeking balanced national development and in order to accomplish that, he insisted on turning Sejong into the administrative capital. However, his motives were to win public support in the Chungcheong region. From his push, various legal revisions were passed, and progress was made. However, in 2004, the Constitutional Court ruled the relocation unconstitutional, saying it should be carried out through constitutional amendments, not legal revisions. Since that ruling, no active discussion on relocation had been made until recently. The current government has brought the idea to light again, citing balanced regional development. Balanced regional development means uniform development of both the capital area and the nation's provinces to enhance regional competitiveness and to improve the quality of people's lives. Representatively, the complementary development method leads to the joint development of rural areas, capital areas, and the transfer method of public institutions. Sejong would share part of the role of Seoul and has been preparing for the role with many changes. Since November 2019, housing prices have been rising continuously for 46 straight in Sejong. In 2020, prices rose by 37%, which is unmatched anywhere in the nation. Also, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security said it will discontinue all commuter buses from the capital area to Sejong from 2022 in order to motivate public officials to relocate to Sejong.
The government is making continuous efforts to turn Sejong into the administrative capital when the ruling and opposition parties have not yet reached an agreement on actual relocation of the administrative capital. The ruling party calls it "balanced development," while the opposition party calls it a "red herring." The ruling party claims political factors are not underlying motivations to the balanced development, but that it has already "completed the process of selecting 103 public institutions to be relocated to Sejong." It also expects a positive ruling on a constitutional amendment. On the other hand, the opposition party said the reason for the move is to hide the failure of Seoul's real estate policy. They also claim "President Moon Jaein never once mentioned this policy during his campaign or early days in office; instead, it has suddenly been pushed on us quickly." As such, the gap between the ruling and opposition parties is widening, and even positions within a party are being divided. In addition to this problem, cities near Sejong such as Daejeon and Cheongju are pursuing a different line from the one the government is pushing. They are expressing a negative stance on the move. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party of Korea, which holds 174 seats, is driving forward and speeding up progress on the bill. Therefore, the public and political parties are raising concerns that the ruling party is acting dogmatically. It is necessary to pay attention to the issue and demand a referendum on the policy.
1) Newsis, "Rising Housing Prices in Sejong…Prices Are up 37% This Year Alone.", September 25, 2020