Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min and Provincial Assembly Chairman Oh Chung Jin, along with the Jeju Branch heads for the Democratic United Party and the Saenuri Party held a press conference at the provincial office on March 5, requesting the Korean government to postpone naval base construction in Gangjeong village, Seogwipo City. They collectively asked the central government to conduct another simulation to re-examine whether the base can be properly used as both a cruise port and a military port, as the construction plans state.
However, blasting occurred at the construction site on March 7 at around 11:20 a.m. Many protesters were arrested trying to stop the blasting.
On March 12, 16 people were arrested, including foreign activists Angie Zelter, 61, and Bejamian Monnet, 33, for destruction of private property and trespassing. On March 14, Monnet was deported to Hong Kong.
Also, on the same day, three members of Veterans for Peace — Elliott Adams, Mike Hastie, and Tarak Kauff — were refused entry to the island at the Jeju International Airport.
Angie Zelter was released the following day after she signed a pledge to leave the country by March 22.
Later that day, Woo and Oh sent an emergency letter of plea to the central government asking them to halt construction to minimize potential unnecessary incidents and damages, as result of improper planning in the base’s construction.
The letter requested for time to “come up with reasonable solutions” for all three parties – the villagers of Gangjeong, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, and the Korean Navy.
On March 14, the Navy distributed a document explaining the naval base construction project and emphasized that there are no flaws in either its plan or process.
Then on March 16, The Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Yim Jong Yong visited the island to meet with the provincial government and the villagers of Gangjeong.
After two meetings, Yim held a press conference at the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Office and announced that the central government had decided to refuse Jeju’s request to hold off construction. He gave three reasons why Seoul has decided to continue with construction without holding another simulation. The first reason is that even if they were to conduct another examination or verification, nothing would change to the base’s current plan. Second, that re-examining the current plans would take a minimum of seven months. And third, further delays to construction are not advisable.
“The construction itself will not be paused or delayed,” Yim emphasized. However he added, “If there’s anything that causes Jeju residents to worry or to question, the government is ready to offer full cooperation to verify the information based on exiting simulation data.”
“[We] sincerely ask for Jeju residents’ understanding and cooperation,” said Yim.
Meanwhile, the company contracted to construct the naval base plans to use a maximum of 43 tons of explosives to flatten the land to install a caisson manufacturing platform.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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