Justices visit seawall to settle case on jurisdiction

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Justices visit seawall to settle case on jurisdiction


Officials from Saemangeum management yesterday give a briefing on the seawall and reclaimed land to Supreme Court justices Park Byoung-dae, left, and Kim Chang-sok. Four justices gathered yesterday at the Saemangeum 33 Center in Gunsan, North Jeolla, for a rare on-site inspection as part of a case to determine jurisdiction over the area. [NEWS1]

Four Supreme Court justices gathered yesterday at the Saemangeum 33 Center in Gunsan, North Jeolla, for a rare on-site inspection as part of a case to determine jurisdiction over the area.

The Saemangeum Seawall, which is the world’s largest at 33.9 kilometers (21.1 miles), is part of a land reclamation plan that dates back decades.

In November 2010, about six months after the wall’s completion, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration assigned sections No. 3 and No. 4 - or about 14 kilometers of the wall and 195 hectares (481 acres) of reclaimed land - to Gunsan. But Gimje and Buan counties objected.

The two local governments said the plan gives 71.1 percent of the reclaimed land to Gunsan, while Gimje only takes 15.7 percent and Buan gets 13.2 percent. As for the seawall, they said Gunsan will take 94 percent while Buan takes 6 percent and Gimje gets nothing.

The Saemangeum Reclamation Project was a campaign promise President Roh Tae-woo made in 1987, and it was completed on April 27, 2010, 20 years after construction work started in November 1991, at a cost of 2.9 trillion won ($2.6 billion).

The project reclaimed 401 square kilometers of land, or about two-thirds the size of Seoul, that fall under the three governments’ jurisdictions.

The seawall links the Port of Gunsan, 274 kilometers southwest of Seoul on the country’s western coast, with the scenic Byeonsan Peninsula. It is 1.4 kilometers longer than the Zuiderzee dyke in the Netherlands, which is 32.5 kilometers long and was previously the world’s longest seawall.

In February 2011, a plan was approved to inject 3.45 trillion won into the construction of a large tourism resort along the Saemangeum Seawall.

The Supreme Court said yesterday that four justices in charge of the case, Yang Chang-soo, Park Byoung-dae, Ko Young-han and Kim Chang-sok, toured the seawall and the nearby reclaimed land.

The four justices asked questions to officials from the three local governments after looking around the site. They had planned to observe the area by helicopter, but that plan was canceled due to bad weather.

“We judged that we needed to see the areas with our own eyes because the result of this case could impact other development projects in the future,” Park said.

Each question from a justice was met with maps and documents provided by local government officials, who sometimes broke into loud arguments about disagreements or alleged misinterpretations as if they were in a courtroom.

“We think it is very positive that the [judges] have not relied purely on documents,” said Kang Wan-goo, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Some legal experts said the court is trying to communicate more with people related with the case, but others argued that spot inspections should be done by lower courts, not the nation’s top judicial body.

This case was managed by officials working on adjudication of jurisdiction disputes at the Constitutional Court but was transferred to the Supreme Court in April 2009 after relevant laws were revised.

By Kim Ki-hwan, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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