June 30, 2009 10:30
President Lee Myung-bak in a radio address on Monday denied growing suspicions that the four-rivers mega project is his abortive plan to build a cross-country canal in a new guise. "The core aim of the Grand Canal Project is to connect the Han and Nakdong rivers," he said. "The government has no plans for such a project and will not pursue such a project during my presidential term."
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said Lee had officially scrapped his Grand Canal plans. During the height of the beef protests in June last year, Lee promised to abandon the Grand Canal Project if the public was against it. But controversy over the project continued, with critics wondering if Lee meant he would pursue it if public sentiment grew favorable, or wondering if the four-rivers project, then conceived on a much smaller scale, was a precursor for the Grand Canal.
Lee said Monday, "My belief that the Grand Canal is necessary for the future of the country remains unchanged. Nevertheless, this issue has the potential to become a political point of contention and could end up splitting public opinion."
Lee said the four-rivers project would enable Korea to "secure ample water resources, improve water quality and benefit the ecology and enhance cultural assets," creating value that is worth far more than the massive budget. He expressed hope that there will be no more "misunderstanding" of this project.
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