NPAD blasts nullification of Dokdo center plan

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NPAD blasts nullification of Dokdo center plan



The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) yesterday lambasted the Park Geun-hye government for nullifying a plan to build a state-run center to cater to Korean tourists on the Dokdo islets.

Supporters of the proposal hoped that the establishment of the center would boost Korea’s dominion over the region under a long-standing territorial dispute with Japan.

Referring to the government’s abandonment of the project as a “catastrophe of Korean diplomacy,” Rep. Chung Se-kyun, a member on the party’s emergency measure committee, urged Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se to step down.

The attack against the administration came after Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga welcomed Korea’s decision to cancel the center. Suga claimed on Wednesday, the day the news of the annulment broke here, that the cancellation was the outcome of its diplomatic efforts to settle Seoul and Tokyo’s territorial dispute peacefully and calmly in accordance with the law.

In a closed meeting on Nov. 1, when the consensus to drop the plan for the center was reached, related ministers reportedly expressed fears that such an establishment on Dokdo would “cause diplomatic friction with Japan.”

On Thursday, Yun refused to disclose lawmakers’ primary rationale at the National Assembly. “The government makes it a rule not to take a submissive approach when it comes to diplomacy with Japan,” he said.

On the same day, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s spokesman denied the claim that Korea had canceled the project to avoid diplomatic conflict.

Korea launched the project to construct a Dokdo entry support center on the islets, which Japan calls Takeshima, as part of its efforts to publicize its ownership of the disputed region in the East Sea and stand against Japan’s explicit attempts to distort historical facts. The Korean government was scheduled this month to select the builder of the center, a two-story building spanning 5.9 square kilometers (590 hectares) on a budget of 9 billion won ($8.3 million). Construction was set to begin at the end of the year at the earliest and be completed by 2017. The center would have accommodated an office, a medical unit, a residence as well as other convenience facilities.

In an apparent effort to instill calm, the prime minister apologized yesterday for the policy inconsistency and offered an explanation. “We thought it would be most desirable to preserve the Dokdo islets, our territory, and leave it as clean as possible - its environment as well as its safety,” he told lawmakers.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]


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