In defense of Korea’s newest port

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In defense of Korea’s newest port

A highly controversial naval base for the South Korean Navy that was previously postponed will officially open for military and commercial purposes on the southern resort island of Jeju.

The proposal for a new naval base was first put under deliberation in 1993. Authorities in 2007 selected the area around the Gangjeong fishing village as the site for the new project, though it took nearly a decade for it to be built due to protests by environmental activists and residents, despite the fact that the Supreme Court concluded the project was legal in 2012.

As much as 1.08 trillion won ($872.51 million) has been put toward its construction; the base is capable of housing 20 warships, including three submarines and two 150,000-ton cruise ships.

Personnel stationed at the Jeju base will be responsible for defending the country’s maritime sovereignty as well as Korea’s southern sea routes, through which approximately 99 percent of national cargo passes.

It would also pave the way for a luxury cruise route between Korea and China - ships could arrive in Shanghai within 20 hours. Chinese tourists are estimated to expand to 10 million by 2025.

The Jeju naval base had a social cost, with environmental activists and residents vehemently protesting its presence.

Villagers remain divided, and some activists have even remained on site to continue waging their opposition campaign.

But this is now. The new naval base must prove successful in order to compensate for the costs the country has had to shoulder. All the ports in famous coastal regions and resort areas worldwide serve dual military and commercial purposes, and peace is sustained via security.

The South Korean Navy must strive to safeguard Jeju Island and its waters by keeping pollution at bay to appease the concerns of environmentalists.

The military, Jeju’s residents and the rest of the Korean population must all support and work toward the successful launch and operation of the country’s newest world-class harbor.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30

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