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South Korea drops plan to move government

South Korea has announced it would scrap a controversial project to relocate part of the government out of the capital of Seoul, saying it would cause inefficiency in state affairs and waste taxpayer money.

The project has been a hot-button issue in South Korean politics for months, with conservative President Lee Myung-bak seeking to revise his liberal predecessor’s plan to move more than half of 15 government ministries to a yet-to-be-built city in central South Korea.

Opposition parties and Lee’s political rivals in his own ruling Grand National Party have urged the president to stick to the original plan, whose aim was to help balance regional development and resolve traffic and housing problems for Seoul’s 10M residents.

Any changes to the original plan - enacted by the government of former President Roh Moo-hyun - required parliamentary approval.

On Monday, Lee’s government announced it would discard the original plan and instead attract a slew of businesses, universities and other facilities to the new city, about 160 km south of Seoul.

“It’s our historical mission to correct yesterday’s wrongdoing and pave the way for a new tomorrow,” Prime Minister Chung Un-chan told a nationally televised news conference.

Chung called the original plan “dangerous” and “not wise,” saying studies showed splitting the government waste up to 5 trillion won (£2.7bn) a year.

The government has also said the original plan was inefficient because officials would have to move long distances to hold meetings.

Chung said the government plans to develop the area as a regional industrial and academic hub in an apparent bid to ease mounting public anger among residents in municipalities near the new town, known as Sejong City after a 15th-century King Sejong The Great who invented Korea’s alphabet.

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