Security comes first

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Security comes first

A joint civilian-military harbor under construction around the village of Gangjeong in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year - after eight years of persistent interruptions by some local residents and outside liberal groups since the location was fixed in 2007. At the end of 2014, however, construction encountered an unexpected obstacle. Due to sit-in protests by opponents, the construction of on-base military housing, which will be home to 72 families, came to a halt for nearly 100 days.

If the construction is delayed, key members of the naval compound will have to live in other places, even after the completion of the base. The Ministry of National Defense’s execution Sunday of an order to tear down all the tents used by the protestors is an avoidable measure to safeguard our national security. Needless to say, military housing should be located where naval officers and soldiers can quickly respond to contingencies. The residential compound also plays a crucial role in providing a stable living space for those assigned to the base.

In fact, the residential complex was downsized compared to the original plan. The Defense Ministry had planned to build as many as 616 units after consulting with the Jeju provincial government. But faced with opposition from locals, the plan was reduced to the current size, which will house 72 families. For the rest of the families, the ministry plans to purchase unoccupied apartments near Seogwipo. As the construction of the complex stopped due to the opponents’ unauthorized occupation of the site, the Jeju government last month offered another stretch of private land. But the Defense Ministry thought it might take at least three years to complete construction considering all the requirements, including getting administrative approval for the construction. The ministry also cited the site’s distance from the naval base, 2.3 kilometer (1.4 miles), which could pose critical problems in times of crisis.

The establishment of a naval base on the southern tip of Jeju is a national project, costing 1 trillion won ($907.4 million), that has been pursued by the military since 1993. The base, when completed, will play a pivotal role in responding to emergencies at sea. It will serve as a base to deal with potential threats from North Korea, maritime disputes in the South China Sea and to safeguard our transportation routes. Local residents’ voices should be respected, but the government must not be shaken by “opposition for opposition’s sake.” Without security, no nation can survive.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 2, Page 30

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