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Transition team takes hands-off approach to four rivers project
SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The transition team of President-elect Park Geun-hye has no plan to look into the contentious re-engineering project for South Korea's four major rivers, officials said Monday, amid conflicting claims about the extent of flaws in the signature project of outgoing President Lee Myung-bak.

   The long-denounced project has emerged as a hot political issue after the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) said last week that construction for the project was so shoddy that a number of serious problems have arisen, such as damage to weirs and structures strengthening riverbeds.

   But the government claimed the problems are overstated and can be addressed easily.

   "The BAI says there are problems, but the land ministry says they are not big problems and can be fixed by reinforcement work," said Rep. Lee Hyun-jae, who heads an economic affairs subcommittee of the transition team. "After the reinforcement work, experts should take a look (at the situation) under water."

   The remark means that the issue is not something the transition team should deal with, but the incoming government may carry out an investigation into what the problems are and why they happened unless the outgoing government clears up all controversies over the project.

   Transition team spokesman Yoon Chang-jung also said the project is not among the team's duties.

   The 22.2 trillion won (US$20.1 billion) project was one of the outgoing president's trademark policies. Completed last year, it refurbished the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers in a way that prevents floods and promotes tourism.

   But environmental activists have claimed it could cause irreversible environmental damage.

   "We can figure out the situation only after the reinforcement work is over," Lee said. "Wouldn't it be OK for both advocates and opponents (of the project) to go together and take a look under water in June?"