[Letters] The seventh mining block as important as DokdoMarking the 58th anniversary of its foundation, the Korea Coast Guard decided to change its memorial day. The Coast Guard was established on Dec. 23, 1953, but it said it will observe the anniversary on Sept. 10, starting from this year. The new date marks the anniversary of the Exclusive Economic Zone Act. Protecting the national interest inside the exclusive economic zone is one of the most important tasks of the Coast Guard, and its decision to observe the date is significant.
The movie “Sector Seven” portrayed the deadly battle between a monster and a mining crew on an oil prospecting ship. And yet, not many people know that the seventh mining block is a maritime territory of Korea, as important as the Dokdo islets. The block is the continental shelf between Jeju’s south and Kyushu’s west. It encompasses 82,000 square kilometers (31,666 square miles), 124 times the size of Seoul.
The petroleum and gas reserves are expected to be 7.2 billion tons, almost equivalent to the oil fields in the Black Sea. In 1974, Korea and Japan signed an agreement to develop the energy jointly, but progress has been slow because Japan has been lukewarm about the project.
The agreement expires in 2028, and what will be the fate of the area? Is Korea ready? For maritime science technology’s proper development, advanced sciences such as maritime environmental science, maritime geology and energy exploration must be nurtured. When we know nothing about the sea, how can we explore, develop and protect it? Without maritime science and technology, and without an understanding of the ecosystem, how can we expect achievements in maritime bioindustry?
Today, the world is engaged in a maritime war to win resources and territories. The United States has a long-term national vision focused on sea, space and cyberspace. Japan has established its Headquarters for Ocean Policy and invested more than 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) of its annual budget to focus on expanding its maritime territory, because of the enormous values. We must gather our strengths and wisdom to defend not only Dokdo, but also invisible territories in the ocean such as the seventh mining block.
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Park Maeong-eon, president of Pukyong National University