Build the base on Jeju

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Build the base on Jeju

Construction of a naval base at Gangjeong Village in the southern tip of Jeju Island finally began yesterday by blasting the rock bed on the coastline. Despite a vehement protest by scores of opponents, including some of the villagers, liberal civic groups and Chung Dong-young, a lawmaker from the main opposition Democratic United Party, and Lee Jung-hee, cochairwoman of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, the blasting proceeded on schedule.

Governor of Jeju Woo Keun-min’s call for another simulation to prove the feasibility of the plan to dock two 150,000 ton cruise ships in the port was also rejected at the last minute. The blasting work is scheduled to be completed within three months.

As we have repeatedly argued, it is hard to deny a strong need for a naval base on the island. Some 98 percent of our total exports and imports depend on sea lanes, particularly ones to the south of Jeju Island. The area, however, increasingly shows signs of international conflicts due to territorial disputes between China and Japan. China even covets the waters off our southernmost island of Ieodo, heralding a territorial friction in the future. Therefore, our government must retain an ability to swiftly deal with any emergencies.

The construction decision was reached after a long debate. Our navy proposed to establish a naval base on the island in 1993 and Gangjeong Village was picked in 2007 as it showed the strongest support compared to other two candidates.

Of course, not all of the villagers supported it, for diverse reasons, including the government’s insufficient compensation for their loss of income from fishing and environmental degradation. Still, no one opposed it for ideological reasons. With the participation of liberal civic groups in the protest since last year, however, it suddenly turned into a political problem. Later, the village was blanketed with lopsided slogans - “No military base on a peaceful island” or “No U.S. military base aimed at containing China on our land.” Yet a majority of the villagers still show a firm support for the naval base.

We are dumbfounded at these groups’ irrational opposition to the project in a volatile area. After steady perseverance, the government has decided to push ahead with the construction in the face of opposition. Once started, the project must be completed as scheduled no matter what obstacles await. A majority of our citizens’ and Gangjeong villagers’ support for the security project should never be thwarted by a smaller group of liberals.
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