5-party coalition announces opposition to Jeju base

Posted on : 2011-08-05 14:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The coalition strengthens opposition by local residents and civic organizations to the controversial base

By Kim Oi-hyun 
A five opposition party group investigating a planned naval base on Jeju issued a proposal Thursday for a temporary halt to the construction project and the establishment of a National Assembly special committee to reexamine the entire effort.
At the core of the group’s “Jeju Naval Base Investigation Report,” released at the National Assembly on Thursday, is the charge that the ruling government has pushed the base’s construction without discussing the matter with the National Assembly.
In its review of the 2008 budget plan, the 18th National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts approved the plan with the addition of a supplementary opinion granting, “the main function is to be as a civil port” but stating that a “‘civilian-military port of call’ where the navy can temporarily dock when necessary” should also be constructed.
Also included was the opinion that the views of related administrative bodies and local residents should be gathered, and the plan submitted to in-depth discussions and review.
The project would subsequently proceed in a different direction. According to documents submitted by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM) and the Ministry of National Defense, the 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion) going into the construction through 2014 includes 977 billion won for the naval base construction component, versus 53.4 billion won for the civilian cruise port construction component. This was a reversal from the emphasis on civil port construction that was a condition for the budget’s approval.
The five opposition parties charged that the government willfully interpreted the concept of a “civilian-military port-of-call” submitted in the supplementary opinion, unilaterally pushing for the construction of a naval port-centered facility without discussing the matter with the National Assembly.
The opposition said it would undertake a thorough examination of the execution, receiving a status report on the government measures for a joint port with an emphasis on civil functions, and reflect the findings in the 2012 budget plan. This means it will not approve the project budget without a reexamination of the current project emphasizing the naval port.
Between 2006 and 2011, a total of 129.3 billion won has been spent on the Jeju naval base project. Plans are currently under way to complete the project within the three years from 2012 to 2014 at a cost of an additional 749.5 billion won. As it needs to spend more than 70 percent of the total project expenses starting next year, the government must get through an National Assembly budget and accounts review at the end of 2011.
The opposition also said that it had failed to find any basis for necessarily building a naval base rather than a joint civilian-military port on Jeju Island, that the construction would almost certainly mean damages to cultural heritage and the ecosystem, and that serious flaws were present in the procedure for collecting opinions from residents and interested parties.
It remains to be seen whether the ruling GNP accepts the idea of establishing a National Assembly special committee. Some within the party are attempting to turn the naval base question into a political issue. But the GNP will inevitably face difficulties in the 2012 budget review process if it rejects the special committee plan. It also faces a considerable political albatross in the later part of the Lee Myung-bak administration if it railroads the budget through in spite of opposition party objections.
The Ministry of National Defense contended that the selection of the Jeju naval base site followed “the most appropriate procedures in the history of national defense efforts.”
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