Beneath the “divided” island politics
Behind the seeming anguish of the Gangjeong villagers over what opponents argue is “the enforced installation” of a naval base on Jeju island lies a history of political struggle perpetrated by a faction of outside militant demonstrators sharing no direct interests in the village.
Initially discussed in 1993 by the Navy, the base installation project gained momentum in 2007 when 54.3 percent of Jeju islanders along with 56 percent of Gangjeong villagers agreed to accept the government offer.
The opposing forces obstructing the installation do not necessarily represent the sentiment shared by the majority of the villagers. Nor do they much listen to the villagers’ economic voices, hardly addressing but rather downplaying the Chinese trawler incursions into the Korean fishing waters.
Further, while blind to China inciting a territorial dispute over a submerged island more thoroughly protectable via the base, the opponents’ direct hostilities are against the United States suspected of containing China from the base. They forget to comprehend that Korea can also beef up its muscles toward its “strategic” partner, not yet an “ally.”
Established political legitimacy by the islanders and villagers alike for the installation, economic needs and a strategic political drive should teach a lesson to the non-interest parties.
by Choi Si-young, Former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Yonsei International Affairs Review at Yonsei University