Despoiling Jeju island coast begins

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (
SUBHEAD: Blasting begins for naval base construction on the Gureombi seashore on the "Island of Peace".  

By Kim Rahn on 7 March 2012 for the Korean Times -  

Image above: Police officers drag out activists who tied themselves to vehicles blocking the roads to a naval base construction site in Gangjeong Village on Jeju
Island. From Original article.  

A construction company began blasting a rock bed at the site of a new naval base on Jeju Island Wednesday despite calls from the provincial government and civic groups to halt the controversial project. Workers detonated explosives on the Gureombi seashore off Gangjeong Village in Seogwipo at 11:23 a.m. Several more blasts followed in the afternoon, using 800 kilograms of explosives. 

The blasting came about three-and-a-half hours after Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Governor Woo Keun-min issued an emergency written appeal to the government to suspend construction out of concern over physical clashes between police and people opposed to the project for environmental damage reasons. 

 Nonetheless, violent clashes happened among police, and activists and residents opposed to the construction during the latter’s attempt to prevent the preparatory work. Hundreds of them tied themselves to buses blocking roads to the village in order to prevent workers from entering the construction site. Some 20 others, protesting on the seashore, were taken into police custody. 

Gureombi has become a symbol of the anti-naval base movement for environmental activists due to its rare topographical feature _ it is comprised of a single rock bed that stretches for 1.2 kilometers. Experts believe lava flowing to the sea and rocks rising from the seabed merged into a single fused mass. Dozens of endangered marine species are thought to inhabit the seashore. 

After the construction company sought approval to start blasting last Friday, Woo and Jeju-based lawmakers requested the government to suspend the work, saying there needed to be a further review on whether the base can also be used as a commercial port for 150,000-ton cruise ships as planned. 

But the government ignored the call and said any more delays would only cause a further waste of taxpayers’ money. Police gave the go-ahead Tuesday evening. Following the blasting, Woo sent an official letter to the Navy saying he plans to issue an administrative order to stop the construction until a further inspection on the commercial use of the base is carried out. “We’ll have a hearing, and request the Navy to participate in it on March 20. Even before the hearing, the construction should also be suspended,” Woo said in the letter to the Navy chief of staff. 

Woo said the government changed the design for parts of the base and according to the law, the local government head can order a halt to construction to examine whether the changes were proper. He also said the Ministry of Defense alone inspected the feasibility of the base’s commercial use without local government participation. 

 The Navy will have to participate in the hearing with materials to prove its claims. If it fails to prove the feasibility of its plan or doesn’t appear at the hearing, local authorities will order the construction to be halted. The ministry said the Navy will take part in the hearing but added it will continue the blasting work. 

“If Jeju governor orders a halt, we’ll have the construction minister annul the order,” it said in a press release. Such an annulment is possible by the law when a local authority head’s order is detrimental to the public interest, a ministry official said. The blasting work is expected to be carried out for five months using 43 tons of explosives. The government plans to finish the 480,000-square-meter base by 2015.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Jeju Island protest Navy Base 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12


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