Green-light the Naval baseThe waters to the south of Jeju Island are pivotal to our security, as most of the container traffic for our exports and imports passes through them. It is also a hot spot over which South Korea, Japan and China claim territorial rights. Although our Navy’s 3rd Fleet patrols the waters, it is still difficult to cope with an emergency situation effectively because the fleet is based in far-away Busan. That’s why both the Ministry of National Defense and the Navy have been seeking to build a Naval base on Jeju Island since 2002 under the Kim Dae-jung administration.
After five years of hassle and tussles over the feasibility and location of the new base, the Defense Ministry and the Navy picked Gangjeong Village, located on the southern tip of the island, as their first choice. Later they announced a plan to build a base for a strategic fleet with a 1 trillion won budget by 2014.
When completed, it can function both as a military base capable of mooring over 20 Navy ships and a tourist attraction by harboring two 150,000-ton-class cruisers.
However, the ambitious plan has been put on hold for more than three years because of opposition from villagers. Their absurd logic is that a Naval base should not be built on a peaceful island. They eventually filed a lawsuit against the defense minister in 2008 demanding a suspension of the project. And in 2009 they held a recall vote on then-governor Kim Tae-hwan. But they lost the legal battle, and their attempt to recall the governor was also thwarted.
They filed another suit against the new governor in January to nullify the project, this time because “the village’s habitat should be preserved intact before the project violates their right to life and happiness.”
A Jeju court, however, ruled yesterday that the project does not appear to infringe on the rights of the villagers, adding that it would be much better for both sides to have a genuine dialogue than continue to pursue a solution in court. The court’s decision was a denunciation of fights through lawsuits.
As we have seen in North Korea’s attack against our warships and Yeonpyeong Island, fortifying our Navy has emerged as a top priority. Also, the opponents’ argument that a Naval base threatens peace is not convincing. They should remember that Hawaii, a world-famous tourist attraction, has a naval base on it. We urge the people of Jeju to overcome their wasteful complaining for a better future. Peace is maintained when you are strong.