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Controversy over Mayor Lee
Mayor Lee Uses Tons of Tax Money on His PR
Cheonggyecheon Inaccessible to the Handicapped
The handicapped Seoul citizens staging a protest.

The recent opening of Cheonggye-cheon or Cheonggye Stream was supposed to be a refreshing and blessed occasion for all Seoul citizens but grumblings have been heard from less privileged members of the community.

The Oct. 1, 2005 opening of the stream which had been sealed by cement for half a century due to the construction of an elevated highway was hailed by nearly all the Korean people not only Seoulites.

But for the handicapped residents of Seoul the Cheonggyecheon project has turned out to be a curse as it is simply inaccessible to them.

On Sept. 28, 2005, a group of physically handicapped Seoul citizens staged a protest march demanding a right to gain access to the stream.

"We want to visit Cheonggyecheon as freely as others," shouted one wheelchair-bound citizen.

Others argue that their needs have been ignored by the Cheonggyecheon recovery, which was supposed to be a blessing to them as well.

The protesters marched along the Cheonggyecheon putting stickers on buildings bearing "Cheonggyecheon Discriminates against the Handicapped."

Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-Bak

In reality, gaining access to Cheongcheon is nearly impossible for the physically handicapped citizens. The National Human Rights Commission concluded that all the roads and facilities along Cheonggyecheon were found to be inaccessible for the disabled.

The march was blocked near Sewoon Bridge by the police and the two opposing forces squared off. A few hours later the protest march was over.

Earlier in the day, in a launching ceremony held in downtown Seoul a group of 25 social organizations formed an alliance for ending discrimination against the handicapped . They are expected to stage a nationwide protest against the discrimination soon.

Critics argue that the Cheonggyecheon recovery was planned and made without full and due consideration for the less privileged Seoul citizens.

On the occasion of the Cheonggyecheon recovery Seoul City Mayor Lee Myung-Bak received attention from national and international news media. He is the one who is taking all the credit for the Cheonggyecheon recovery.

Seoul City Administration poured tons of tax-payers money into the dismantling of the elevated highway and recovery of the stream which runs through the middle of the northern part of this capital city.

In his efforts to publicize his "successful" reopening of the Cheonggyecheon Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-Bak squandered 1 billion won (about 959,000 US dollars) on a variety of public relations program for the stream, which has incurred complaints and anger among the citizens.

Critics argue that all of Mayor Lee's projects including the Cheonggye recovery are actually intended to aid his ambition to become president.

Cynics jeer that Mayor Lee is the most capable mayor of all in the history of Seoul when it comes to publicity.

In May, 2004 Mayor Lee asked "Discovery" to produce a program on his Cheonggyecheon project, supplying the US documentary channel with 390,000,000 won (about 374,000 US dollars), all taxpayers' money. Discovery' s Cheonggyecheon program includes an extensive interview with Mayor Lee, according to a local daily. The program will be aired in the middle of October, 2005, after the opening of Cheonggyecheon.

There is also a huge PR offensive underway for Mayor Lee's Cheonggyecheon project dubbed "Cheonggyecheon Video White Paper." He is spending 600,000,000 won (about 575,400 US dollar), also the Seoul citizens' tax money, according to the vernacular daily.

Prof. Hong Seong-Tae of Sangji University said that he was approached by the Discovery people for an interview on Mayor Lee Cheonggyecheon project but declined the interview request.

In a recent article he contributed to Citizen's Newspaper Prof. Hong said he declined it because he felt that the whole program is all for the personal PR benefit of Mayor Lee.

He added that the best thing Mayor Lee does is probably his PR work.

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