Push Jeju base forwardThe controversy over the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island is heating up again. At their second rally on the island, five opposition parties professed their firm resolve to nullify the government’s project to build a base at Gangjeong Village on the southern tip of the island. Aside from the opposition parties, some liberal civic groups and island residents have vehemently raised their voices against the Navy’s plan, arguing that “the military base will be exploited by the United States for its containment policy with China” and that the construction will “destroy Jeju’s beautiful environment.”
In fact, it was the Roh Moo-hyun administration that made the final decision in 2007 to build a naval base on the island after the need for a naval post was first raised in 1993. At the time, Roh said, “Peace without armament cannot exist,” adding that a naval base on the island is crucial for our national security.
The government, however, was not able to break ground on the project until 2010 due to persistent opposition from the liberal camp. The construction was again suspended in June by hardcore leftist groups, including Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, which swarmed into the village to protest the base construction. They attempted to thwart the project by lying under vehicles on the site to stop the project from moving forward. At the rally, Chung Dong-young, former chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, promised to “annul the project we pursued when we were the ruling party,” apologizing for the sudden switch.
We are dumbfounded at the ruling camp’s strange logic against the base. As president Roh said, it is “crucial for our security” not only for the safety of the sea route - where over 90 percent of our sea traffic for imports and exports passes - but also for securing our economic sovereignty in today’s competitive world. Some opponents have employed the misleading argument that the naval base will trigger a crisis by irritating China. But will China withdraw its claim to the waters off Ieo Island, the southernmost island of the Korean Peninsula, if we give up construction of a naval base on Jeju? That’s a preposterous argument.
The government must resume construction of the base as soon as possible. If it wavers amid a modicum of ludicrous opposition from radical groups, it can never protect our national interests and security. The administration need not listen to such opposition for opposition’s sake. We hope our warships will proudly anchor at the dock in 2014, when the base is to be completed.