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Airports, naval bases, sex scandals, dolphins and moreThe Jeju stories that made the news in 2015
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승인 2016.01.01  14:52:52
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Photo courtesy
Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

New airport at Seongsan
The biggest news of the year was the announcement on Nov 10 that Jeju will boast a second airport by 2025.

The site for the single-runway airport, which was deemed essential due to oversaturation at Jeju International Airport, will spread over parts of Sinsan and Onpyeong villages in Seongsan-eup.

The decision was extremely controversial due to the lack of public consultation on the issue and the environmental and cultural damage that is inevitable.

The province hopes the airport will be operational for 24 hours a day with the local area becoming designated a special commercial zone.

The province has also placed a moratorium on land sales and has cut back on the number of building permits in the area to halt land speculation.

The province aims to welcome 20 million tourists by 2025 with almost 40 million annual air passengers.

Photo courtesy Jeju Sori

Gangjeong naval port nears completion
In a ceremony at Gangjeong naval base on Dec 1, a new Marine Corps brigade, the 9th Brigade, was unveiled to forward Korea’s maritime interests.

The local waters were formerly defended by Jeju Defense Command, which has been decommissioned.

In a further sign that Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Port is almost complete, an Aegis destroyer docked in Gangjeong on Dec 22.

Since construction began in 2012, the naval base has been passionately opposed by local and international activists.

A permanent protest has been set up in the village and a community of activists has vowed to continue its opposition upon completion.

The base, 96 percent complete, should be open by February, say officials.

The province announced that the 500-strong 9th Brigade is tasked with defending against enemy infiltration, terrorist attacks and disasters.

Governor gains COP21 support for carbon-free plans
The governor gathered plenty of support at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) for the island’s carbon-free 2030 project.

If the project is successful, all of Jeju’s electricity will be powered by new and renewable energy and all local vehicles will be electric by 2030.

As well as presidential backing from Park Geun-hye during her keynote speech in Paris, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pledged institutional support from the UN and called for Jeju’s carbon-free eco platform model to be applied to other UN member states.

At the 100% Renewable Energy Cities & Regions Network on Dec 7, Governor Won said that Jeju’s ‘Green Big Bang’ should be applied to over 2,500 cities worldwide.

The provincial plans had already been boosted in late November in Seoul’s new Strategies to Promote New Energy Industries by 2030.

In what could be a coup for the island, Jerome Stoll, the vice president of French automaker Renault, hinted that a new EV model could be released at the International Electric Vehicle Expo 2016.

Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

MERS outbreak
Korea was reeling from an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in the summer. A total of 186 cases were detected with 36 deaths between May 20 and July 28.

The newly emerged betacoronavirus was first identified in a patient from Saudi Arabia in April 2012. The first Korean was diagnosed on May 20, nine days after the 68-year-old sought medical help upon returning from a trip to the Middle East.

Although Jeju didn’t have any confirmed cases, someone who had visited the island later tested positive in Seoul, causing a scare.

International attention on the nationwide outbreak also discouraged Chinese visitors which led to a 70 percent drop in bookings.

Ironically, domestic bookings were up as people sought to escape the outbreak on the mainland.

Photo courtesy Frisko

Casino sex scandal
After a broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) in October exposing prostitution and extortion at Jeju casinos, Governor Won Hee-ryong was forced to instigate a crackdown against illegal activities.

Chinese police themselves arrested 13 Koreans and 34 Chinese recruiters across China back in June. After the show’s broadcast in October, Won created a special task force to crack down on illegal incentives, including prostitution, to attract Chinese gamblers to the island.

The alleged illegal activities include offering nights with aspiring models and actresses for casino chips bought.

The Chinese Consulate in Jeju told the Chosun Ilbo that there had also been a sharp increase loan sharks and passport confiscation “from operators near casinos."

Photo by The Jeju Weekly

Major Malaysian project halted
Malaysia’s Berjaya Land group was ordered to halt a major project in Yerae-ri, Seogwipo City, after the Supreme Court ordered the construction to halt in April.

With 60 percent of the project completed, and 147 condominiums pre-sold, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier High Court ruling that the inclusion of luxury condos and a casino meant the project was an “amusement park” rather than a “residential-type complex.”

Residential-type complexes should satisfy certain public-good requirements under the National Land Planning and Utilization Act.

The construction site remains half-finished to this day as Berjaya threatens to sue Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) for damages.

Jeju province meanwhile is seeking a change in the Jeju Special Law to push through the project.

Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

Dolphins released in Asia first
Back in July the tale of two released Jeju dolphins captured the public imagination after years in captivity.

On July 15, 10 days after release on July 6, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins Taesan and Boksoon were seen with a wild pod near Jongdal port, Gujwa-eup..

The dolphins joined a 40-strong pod with Jedol, Chunsam and Sampal, three dolphins released in 2013 from captivity.

The dolphins were captured from local waters in 2009 and 2010 and sold to a dolphin show and zoo. The Supreme Court then ordered their release in 2013.

A Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries spokesperson said: “After seeing Taesan and Boksoon happy and healthy with the other dolphins, our worries lifted that they might not be able to adjust to the wild.”

The case was the first in Asia of dolphins being successfully released into the wild following capture.

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