The ruling People Power Party launched a special committee on Thursday to discuss its heatedly debated proposal of integrating the neighboring city of Gimpo into the capital city of Seoul.
This committee will be headed by Rep. Cho Kyoung-tae, a five-term lawmaker and a civil engineering doctorate holder with expertise in urban design, Rep. Park Jung Ha, the party's spokesperson, told reporters.
The envisioned plan, which aims to include the northwestern city of Gimpo in Gyeonggi Province surrounding Seoul, is part of the PPP's initiative known as "Mega Seoul."
The move, opposed by the main opposition Democratic Party, is widely perceived as an effort to bolster voter support ahead of the upcoming general elections next year.
Talks of Gimpo's incorporation into Seoul have arisen as the provincial government of Gyeonggi Province is considering dividing the province into two due to its growing population.
The Gimpo municipal government has expressed a preference for becoming part of Seoul rather than being subjected to a potential division of Gyeonggi.
Gimpo, home to approximately 490,000 residents, covers 276.6 square kilometers of land. If the proposal is approved, it would expand the total area of Seoul by around 45 percent.
Opinions are divided on the proposal that involves several steps, starting with approval in a vote by Gimpo residents before the National Assembly enacts a special law to make it official.
Some urban planning experts argue that the PPP is rushing the plan without fully evaluating potential side effects, while others believe it could bring positive changes for both Gimpo and Seoul residents.
"The integration of Gimpo into Seoul will have a significant impact on all 25 autonomous districts of Seoul and the 31 cities and counties in Gyeonggi Province," said Hong Joon-hyun, a civil engineering professor at Chung-Ang University.
Other experts have criticized the plan as merely a political maneuver with the upcoming elections less than six months away, saying it has a lot of procedural problems
"It would be more correct to involve initial discussions between Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon (just west of Seoul) to formulate an overarching regional urban and spatial plan, " Kim Jin-yoo, an urban engineering professor at Gyeonggi University, said.
However, others argue that this plan could greatly benefit Gimpo residents by addressing the notorious congestion issues on the roads and subways connecting the two cities.
"If Gimpo becomes part of Seoul, it could serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of both cities," said Kim Gab-seong, a civil engineering professor at Yonsei University. (Yonhap)