Navy says it will review Jeju government request to stop construction work
Work on the naval base on Jeju Island continued Thursday amid protests from activists and local residents.
The contractors began using explosives to clear parts of the so-called Gureombi Rock on Wednesday and conducted further explosions on Thursday. The partial demolition of the 1.2 kilometer-long rock formation is scheduled to take place over the following three months.
Protestors also continued to demonstrate against the base, but clashes with the police were more subdued than Wednesday, with only two people removed from the scene. According to a Seogwipo police officer all of the protesters arrested on Wednesday have been released.
On Wednesday, about 12 participants including Jeju council member Kim Young-shim of the Unified Progressive Party were arrested when they attempted to stop the authorities from removing the vehicles used to deny access to the construction site.
As the calls to stop the works also continued on Thursday, more controversy arose after one would-be politician referring to the base as a “pirate base.”
On her Twitter account, Unified Progressive Party’s proportional representative candidate Kim Ji-yoon posted a photograph of herself holding up a tablet PC showing a slogan reading “(I) Oppose Jeju pirate base. Let’s protect Gangjeong.” Gangjeong is the name of the village where the naval base is being built.
The comment raised strong criticism from conservative politicians and the military. The Navy has also requested a public apology from Kim.
“The Navy expresses a deep regret for the fact that (Kim) deeply damaged the honor of the Navy and all the troops, and requests an official apology,” the Navy said in a statement. The statement also said that the Navy is considering legal measures.
While the opposition continued to rally against the project, the military remains unmoved.
“The Navy thinks that as it is a project of national importance with regards to the country’s security and development of Jeju, it should not become a political issue,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Hwang Ki-chul said.
“As such, the project will be conducted according to schedule, without interruption, to be completed in 2015.”
With regards to the Jeju government’s plans to order the works stopped, the Navy said that it will review the order in accordance with the law.
The Jeju government on Wednesday said that it will hold a hearing in accordance with the Public Waters Management Act and requested the Navy to halt all work for the duration of the process.
The governor has the authority to halt construction works occurring in the autonomous province, but such orders may be overturned by the minister of land, transport and maritime affairs.
Regarding claims that Gureombi Rock is of environmental or geological importance, Hwang said that similar rock formations were found across Jeju and that independent reviews have shown that the rock had little conservation value.
“In 2009, we and those opposing the project conducted a collaborative environmental study, and found that the area did not need to be conserved,” Hwang said.
“However, in light of the Gangjeong villagers’ stance and other similar factors, the construction works will be carried out so that the rock will be conserved as much as possible.”
According to the Defense Ministry, Gureombi Rock is named after the gureombi tree, which is commonly found in Jeju and the southern coast of Korea. Gureombi is an evergreen belonging to the same family as laurels and are found in Jeju and other southern areas of Korea.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)