As one of South Korea's Natural Heritage sites is on the verge of being replaced by a pile of cement from naval base construction work, local residents and civic activists are waging a fierce battle to rescue the site.
The opposition stress that the naval base construction will not only turn one of the nation's most treasured site into a cement tomb, but the launching of a naval base on the island also could jeopardize the Korean peninsula's peace. More and more South Korean Tweeters and bloggers are joining the movement.
Jeju Island is the country's largest, most visited island, situated at the southwest of the Korean Peninsula. It was named a Natural World Heritage Site because of its volcanic islets and its lava tubes which are worth preserving.
The island is well-preserved, free of contamination and disease from the mainland. Jeju is a designated Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It is also a Marine Reserve zone selected by the Korean Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Local residents and activists are particularly concerned about the Gureombi Rock in the Jeju island's GangJeong village. The Gureombi is a collection of broad lava-formed rocks and stones spread over the seashore, a geographically important structure and home to numerous endangered species.
The ongoing conflict, between the protesters on one side and the Navy and the concerned government departments on the other, goes back three years. Starting from May 2007 when the final decision was made to select GangJeong as the construction site for a naval base, local residents started protests and activists have arrived on the island to help them fight a lonely battle. On December 2010, 32 protesters and two local residents were arrested for attempting to disrupt the Navy's ground-breaking ceremony for the naval base.
More activists and citizens started joining the protest from March 2011 and it has gathered strength in the Twittersphere.
Apart from the Protect GangJeong homepage [ko], the Protect GangJeong Facebook page [ko] was set up and two Tweeters (@kimseriiii and @thinkunit) are live-tweeting about the protest from Jeju. The project even has a Protect GangJeong Facebook badge [ko] where Facebook users can get a GangJeong badge to attach to their profile image.
In late May, celebrated American linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, responding to an email sent by a Jeju activist group, wrote that he found it “very disturbing to hear” about the “ominous plans for the huge naval base”. (Full content of Chomsky's email).
Protect the wnvironment and PEACE
An assistant movie director, Kim Se-ri (@kimseriiii) who is spearheading the movement, explained more on the GangJeong Village and the construction scale in a web page named The Gangjeong is Alive [ko]:
구럼비해안과 범섬 사이에는 세계적으로도 몇 안되는 색색가지 연산호 군락지여서 유네스코가 생물권보전지역으로 지정한 곳입니다. 제주 해군기지 예정지내에는 제주특별자치도 조례로 절대보전지역으로 설정되었으며 육상은 대규모 역사유물 산포지로 둘러싸여 있으며 멸종위기 동물[…] 등이 대규모로 서식하는 곳입니다.국방부,해군이 강정마을 해안에 건설하겠다고 한 해군기지의 규모는 총 12만평 면적을 매립하는 것으로 이는 […] 제주역사(役事)이래의 최대 해안 매립공사입니다.
An anti-war and anti-nuke American activist, Bruce K. Gagnon from the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space wrote in his blog:
It is important to remember that the U.S. Navy will be porting Aegis destroyers (outfitted with “missile defense” systems) at this base. The proximity of the base on Jeju Island to China's shipping lanes, that they use to import 80% of their oil, is no coincidence. It is beyond obvious that this base is absolutely going to contribute to further militarization of the Asian-Pacific region and will in fact be a dangerous trigger for war.
Live-tweeting the movement.
Kim tweeted the link [ko] to another video:
To explain why this means so much to some people, Kim tweeted [ko] an interview video with English subtitles. The interviewee, Yang Yoon-mo is a former Korean Association of Film Critics Chairman. Yang was arrested two months ago for trying to block a construction truck from entering the site and he waged a hunger strike for about two months in jail. Yang was finally released from jail [ko] on June 1:
[동영상] 단식57일째, 영화평론가 양윤모가 전하는 제주 해군기지 핵심 내용 *제목:<Island of stone> http://youtu.be/TD8zk0HN83w
Kim also tweeted [ko] about how to get a ‘Protect GangJeong’ banner and stickers:
There are a few local residents actually siding with the construction of the naval base. South Korea's progressive newspaper, Hankyoreh pointed out [ko] that some residents are too tired of the continuing conflicts which have almost ruined their daily lives.
The Ministry of National Defense stressed that Gangjeong village of Jeju is a strategically perfect spot for the Navy to secure the nation's economic efficiency. However, activists, such as a movie director Park Sung-mi (@sungmi1), stressed in her tweet [ko] that the Defense Ministry had publicly withdrawn their “Ocean Navy Strategy” which has served as justification for pressing through the construction plan against the resident's wishes in the first place.