Beleaguered Jeju governor survives recall vote
JEJU - Insufficient turnout nullified a recall vote on Wednesday intended to oust the Jeju provincial governor after he gave his support to the controversial construction of a naval base on Jeju Island.
Kim Tae-hwan, the first provincial governor in Korea to face a recall, has now returned to work. He was suspended from duty on Aug. 6 after the Jeju Election Commission announced it would hold a recall vote in response to protests from some Jeju residents.
“I sincerely thank Jeju residents for their wise choice,” said Kim. “I will do my best to make provincial harmony and integration by resolving conflicts and division.”
According to the commission, turnout was over 46,000, or 11 percent out of 419,504 eligible voters, adding that Korean election laws prevented votes from being counted if less than one-third of eligible voters casts a ballot. The cost of the recall vote was 1.92 billion won ($1.54 million), the commission said.
Recall supporters gathered 51,044 signatures for a petition against the governor. That number more than met the threshold of 41,649 - or 10 percent of the island’s voting population - needed to hold a recall vote.
The problem began when the island’s provincial government and Korea’s defense and land ministries agreed in April this year to build a base for civilian and military use at Gangjeong Port in the city of Seogwipo on the southern coast of Jeju Island.
The decision angered some residents and civic activists. They claimed the local government decided to move ahead with the project without weighing public opinion. They argue that it should have followed democratic procedures rather than surveys.
By 2014, the Navy will invest 953.7 billion won to build a port capable of accommodating 20 battleships and two large cruisers.
The port will have docking facilities for military use and civilian vessels. Housing facilities will accommodate more than 7,500 military personnel and their families. The Land Ministry will be in charge of building docks for civilian cruise ships.
Construction of the base is scheduled to begin in December.
By Yang Seong-cheol, Lee Min-yong [firstname.lastname@example.org]