PPP floor leader hints at possibility of reviving scrapped expressway project

July 7, 2023

An expressway construction project at the center of political strife has been suspended due to groundless allegations from the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), the floor leader of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) said Friday.

Rep. Yun Jae-ok made the remark a day after Land Minister Won Hee-ryong announced a decision to scrap the Seoul-Yangpyeong expressway construction project, and Yun’s use of the term, suspension, rather than cancellation, raises the possibility the project could be revived.

“I think it is very regrettable that a national project has been suspended due to political propaganda and fake news, and residents in the region are going to suffer damage,” Yun told reporters after a party meeting at the National Assembly.

Yun also told Yonhap News Agency by phone that Won’s announcement should be seen as meaning that the government is suspending the project because it cannot proceed normally due to the “continuing fake news and political offensive from the Democratic Party.”

The DP has raised allegations that the route of the envisioned expressway was changed earlier this year to give financial benefits to the family of first lady Kim Keon Hee because the new endpoint of the highway is near where Kim’s family owns land.

“If there is a better route, the Democratic Party should review it and put it forward,” Yun said. “It would be a responsible attitude for a political party to propose a new alternative, rather than only claiming that the current route is a special favor.”

The ruling People Power Party's floor leader, Rep. Yoon Jae-ok, speaks during a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on July 7, 2023. (Yonhap)
The ruling People Power Party’s floor leader, Rep. Yoon Jae-ok, speaks during a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on July 7, 2023. (Yonhap)

The DP has been arguing that the land minister canceled the construction project in an attempt to cover-up the allegations and has demanded the minister revoke the decision.

“It’s truly mind-boggling. Is he trying to destroy it completely because he can’t benefit from it? The minister’s decision, which almost seems childish, should be nullified,” DP leader Lee Jae-myung said at a meeting of Supreme Council members.

The DP’s special task force on the project said they will push for a parliamentary probe or even an impeachment of the minister to get to the bottom of the case, as they accused the minister of abusing his power.

“Ignoring explanations and threatening the people by completely scrapping the project is a dictatorial mindset and a clear abuse of power. Making such a decision undermines the legal system of the country and constitutes an administrative dictatorship. Personally, one may even consider impeachment,” said Rep. Kang Deuk-gu, who heads the special task force.

The PPP, however, argued the DP should take responsibility for the damage caused by the cancellation, saying they were the ones who politicized the project with false accusations from the start.

“The citizens of Yangpyeong will have to bear the brunt of such irresponsible accusations from the DP. It will be fully responsible for the project’s cancellation,” the PPP’s chief policymaker, Park Dae-chul, said.

Rep. Kim Jung-jae, who leads the parliamentary Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee, said the accusations were based on “downright lies,” adding that the routes were not abruptly changed and were agreed upon with the DP.