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In survey, lawmakers support 2nd National Assembly site in Sejong

Oct 13,2018
Most of the lawmakers who responded to a recent JoongAng Ilbo survey said they approved of establishing a second National Assembly building in Sejong, breathing fresh life into a years-old debate on moving Korea’s government away from Seoul.

Sejong, located 70 miles south of the capital near Daejeon, is currently home to 11 out of the 18 central government ministries. If the Ministry of Interior and Safety and the Ministry of Science and ICT move their headquarters from Seoul to Sejong next year as planned, only five ministries will remain in the capital: foreign affairs, unification, justice, national defense and gender equality and family.

A bill to revise the National Assembly Act to allow a second parliamentary building in Sejong has been pending in the National Assembly for over two years, but barely any progress has been made so far.

Over the past two months, the JoongAng Ilbo distributed a written survey to 299 lawmakers in the National Assembly and heard back from 162 of them. Of them, 100 lawmakers (62 percent of the respondents) said they supported opening a second Assembly in Sejong, while 52 lawmakers (32 percent) said they disagreed. Ten lawmakers (6 percent) gave no answer or said they did not know.

Fewer lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party supported the idea compared to those from other political parties.

Out of 69 lawmakers for the ruling Democratic Party who gave a response, 46 people (67 percent) approved of the idea, while 19 (28 percent) disapproved. Out of 51 lawmakers in the Liberty Korea Party who responded, 24 (47 percent) approved and 23 (45 percent) disapproved.

Sixty-one lawmakers who approved of a second National Assembly building in Sejong (61 percent) said they supported it because it would help balance growth and decentralize authority. Fifty-one lawmakers said doing so would improve work efficiency. Lawmakers were allowed to choose multiple answers.

Those who were against the idea said that it would lower work efficiency and raise costs, given that Assembly representatives would have to move back and forth from Seoul and Sejong on the KTX bullet train. Others said that the general public hasn’t fully understood the issue yet and that it didn’t fit the country’s vision of a unified Korean Peninsula.

Half of the 162 lawmakers who responded to the JoongAng Ilbo survey said they approved of the idea of relocating the National Assembly headquarters from Seoul to Sejong altogether. Sixty-five lawmakers (40 percent) were against that idea and 16 lawmakers (10 percent) gave no answer or said they didn’t know. President Moon Jae-in expressed support for a second National Assembly building in Sejong several times before and after he was elected president in May 2017. But the idea never managed to pick up momentum in the Assembly and the president has remained largely silent on the matter ever since.

BY SPECIAL REPORTING TEAM [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]