Let them pay for the lossesThe government has decided to pay Samsung C&T damages worth 27.3 billion won ($23.4 million) for the delayed construction of a naval base on Jeju Island. Samsung in 2010 won a government construction deal to build a dock to accommodate two cruise ships by 2012, but construction was delayed by 14 months due to strong protests from residents and environmental activists. The Navy plans to file an indemnity suit against activist groups and individuals that interfered with the construction through the illegal protests.
Delays in state projects have often ended in major losses to the public. The two-year construction holdup on the Sapesan Tunnel in Gyeonggi as a part of an expressway project increased building costs by 500 billion won. The protests against a high-speed railway tunnel going through Mount Cheonseong by environmentalists advocating for the wildlife and endangered species, like salamanders, caused losses of 14.5 billion won. Despite the enormous financial drains, the individuals and groups causing the delays have not been held accountable through the payment of indemnities.
Protests are still ongoing against various state and public projects. The state power company and residents still clash over the plan to install five electricity transmission towers in Miryang, South Gyeongsang. Companies in industrial complexes nearby fear blackouts or other disruptions to the power supply due to the delay in the construction.
State projects that could damage the environment and cause inconveniences must go through sufficient coordination with residents. If they have been endorsed through legitimate procedures, any disruption is - and should be - illegal. The losses that illegal demonstrations cause will eventually be shouldered by the public through tax money that could be put to better use.
The Jeju naval base construction was ruled necessary by the Supreme Court in 2012, but protesters are still waging demonstrations. The protest that started in 2007 is likely to go on even after the completion of the construction. The government must take court action against illegal disruptions in state projects to save further tax losses.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 1, Page 26