(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Feb. 23)

The greenbelt rule was a legacy introduced by former President Park Chung Hee in 1971 to stop reckless urban development. Thanks to the program, Korea maintains its unique greenery and mountains across the country. But the blanket rigid regulation has been sneered as "shady-belt," as it invades on the property rights of landowners and invites dubious dealmaking between residents and district civil servants. The greenbelt zones have been streamlining since the Kim Dae-jung government. The Kim government eased the regulations to help fight the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and the following Roh Moo-hyun government to build public rental apartments. The later governments under former presidents Lee Myung-bak, Park Geun-hye, and Moon Jae-in also lifted some areas from the regulation to make more space for public housing. The Yoon Suk Yeol administration plans to radically lift the draconian regulations on greenbelt and farmland. President Yoon in a televised debate in Ulsan Metropolitan City vowed to overhaul the guidelines on greenbelt. The uniform prohibition of development for areas in high and skewed places will be scrapped, and the government will improvise guidelines to allow easier economic use of green space around train stations or towns even if they have high value of preservation, he said. For strategic projects that can help boost the regional economy, the government will exclude the zone from regional caps and allow development in the greenbelt zones with high environmental values. It will ease regulation on smart vertical farming leveraging on containers to breed crops and allow development in idle farmland. President Yoon announced the dramatic lifting of the greenbelt policy in 20 years in Ulsan with a clear reason. Greenbelt typically should surround a city, but it cuts into the city. After Ulsan County was integrated into Ulsan City in 1995, the greenbelt between the two sits at the center of the city to symbolize the poor fallout from an outdated regulation. Provincial governments have troubl e hosting industrial complexes due to strict greenbelt regulations. The easing could help restore battered regional economies. Overly rigid regulations on greenbelt and farmland lessen the space for factories and housing only to push up real estate prices. Timely land supply can certainly help to bolster economic productivity. Local government heads competitively promise to work towards lifting of greenbelt zones. But frenzied development in greenbelt zones must be contained. Without clear principle and stringent guidelines, the deregulation could be criticized as a means to favor the governing People Power Party in the upcoming parliamentary elections on April 10. Once destroyed, green-belt zones and farmlands can hardly be restored to previous levels.