Editor’s note: Jeju has a vibrant political and news culture. The island’s population is only about 500,000, but there are six large local newspapers and nine major online news sites actively reporting and commenting on a remarkable variety of issues. The Jeju Weekly will in this new series provide readers with analysis of hot topics that appear daily in the local Korean-language press. In future we will invite guest writers to provide different perspectives and expert opinions for this ongoing series. We hope our readers will enjoy this wider window on Jeju politics, culture and more.
“Not in my backyard”— naval base controversy turns a new corner
▲ A protest sign, cut out of a sheet of iron, on display at a rally earlier this year at the site of the proposed naval base Photo by Rachael Berman
The controversy around the proposed naval base in Gangjeong has turned a new corner, with an overwhelming number of residents endorsing a compromised proposal in a referendum conducted on Aug. 18.
The proposal states that the Jeju provincial government should look for other locations on the island that would be suitable for the naval base before they turn to Gangjeong. If no town agrees to become the future location for the naval base and the provincial government exhausts all of their options, the residents of Gangjeong will then accept the construction of the base in their town.
With 648 out of 1,100 registered voters coming out to the polling station, the proposal was passed by 504 to 144 votes. The polling result belied what the media has so far painted about the underlying sentiment of the town’s people. The prevalent opinion in the town about the naval base, according to reports by the local media, was a resounding ‘no.’ With ‘not-in-my-backyard’ sentiment concerning the naval base running high throughout the island, though, Gangjeong voters practically said ‘yes’ to the naval base with this poll.
Some early signs hinted that the sentiment among residents about the base may be more positive than it seems.
When the former governor Kim Tae Hwan was put on the referendum on Aug. 26 last year for potential recall, only 48.1 percent of voters in Gangjeong showed up to cast ballots.
The voting result this time has proved again that Gangjeong is almost evenly divided about the base and a substantial number of residents may covertly hope to accept financial compensation offered by the Korean navy, if not explicitly happy about its presence here.
Since the poll gave Jeju provincial government, as well as Gangjeong residents a tangible cover of legitimacy, both legal and administrial, Governor Woo Keun Min has been finally freed from a burden of swallowing the blames that he brought the navy to the island. Whether the naval base is built or not on the island, it is the decision of Gangjeong, not him, Woo can assert in the future.
“I would like to thank Gangjeong people for coming up with the proposal through an acceptable process such as town meeting and referendum,” Woo said to the town representatives that visited his office on Aug. 19.
Earning a procedural legitimacy—perhaps this was the real intention behind every party involved in this unusual referendum.
‘Getting refreshed’ earned whole new meaning in Jeju Some 16 Chinese tourists hailing from Hubei Province visited Jeju on Aug. 16 as the first group of medical tourist to the island specifically for plastic surgery, Jeju provincial government said.
They will stay until Aug. 23 and consult with local plastic surgeons about their operations. After having their body and face nipped and tucked, the Chinese patient-turned-tourists will either visit some key attractions on the island or do some shopping. There has been a steady stream of individual Chinese visitors looking for cosmetic surgery on the island, but a group visit for medical treatment of this scale is the first since Jeju decided to promote the island as an Asian medical tourist hub.
Earlier, six Taiwanese visited Jeju on Aug. 9 to get renal dialysis treatment at Joong-ang Hospital. Halla General Hospital, currently one of the island’s two medical centers designated as a leading medical tourism hub, will greet Uzbekistan medical researchers in early September followed by 30 Korean Americans who are going to have medical checkups here.
Whereas Singapore, Thailand other South-East Asian pioneers of overseas medical tourism have mostly targeted North American patients who are shopping for low-cost alternatives to exorbitantly pricey domestic medical service at home, Jeju instead eyes to combine medical service and tourism.
Jeju provincial government plans to designate more local hospitals for medical tourism in the near future, providing administration and marketing support to those institutions.
“It’s a bird! No it’s a ship!”
▲ AC&SMAT test flight underway off the coast of Korea. Photo courtesy Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs
And you thought 40 knots per hour was fast for a ferry? The Korean government is pushing to launch a ship that cruises between Busan and Jeju at over 107 knots per hour or 200 kilometers per hour, by 2012, cutting down the journey time from the current 10 hours to 90 minutes.
A ship that cruises at 200 kilometers per hour? You may think it is a fantasy but this is not an ordinary ‘high-speed’ boat such as the ones propelled by water jets or hydrofoil. It is a WIG ship that taps into Wing-In-Ground effect.
If an airplane flies close to the ground, its wings attain level flight near the surface of the Earth, which is made possible by a cushion of high-pressure air created by the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface known as ground effect. The lift gained from wing in ground effect is much stronger than usual flights, enabling the craft to save as much as 50 percent of fuel as compared to ordinary commercial airplanes.
In the 1960s, Ekranoplan, the Russian WIG war ship was once spotted by American spy satellites cruising the Caspian Sea at an incredible 550 kilometers per hour, hence earning its current nickname — Caspian Sea Monster.
Boeing has also been developing what it calls the Pelican. This is a turboprop-driven military transport with a 150 meter wingspan and is designed to carry 1,300 tons of cargo over a distance of up to 10,000 nautical miles.
The prototype WIG ship to be used in the Busan-Jeju route will cruise some 5 meters above the surface, eliminating friction between the ship hull and water.
Dubbed the ‘bullet train of the sea’ in Korea for its potential application for high-speed commercial maritime transportation, two prototypes of the concept have been developed by C&S AMT and Wingship Technology. The WIG ship developed by Wingship Technology can seat up to 40 passengers and will likely run between Busan and Jeju and Pohang and Ulleungdo.
The Problem with WIG ships is that some legal clearance of maritime laws is required for such an ultra high-speed ship to sail the Korean waters. A B-type WIG ship can theoretically jump up to 150 meters if it detects any incoming vessel, which is why International Civil Aviation Organization puts some types of WIG ships into the ‘aircraft’ category.
Cheap and fast, government officials believe WIG ships could alleviate the severe congestion in Jeju’s skies if a full commercialization is to be realized. It would also trigger a revolution in the international maritime transportation, they believe.
Despite its exciting potential, WIG ship entails too much risk to be considered safe and seaworthy compared to other slower vessels for now. Some scientists even warned that WIG ships could crash if it runs into high waves.
Since it flies at quite a low altitude, extra level of aviation control would be required for those ships.
So question is, who is going to beta-test this thrilling, but potentially dangerous boat? Any volunteers?
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