First vessel arrives at contested naval base on Jeju Island

Posted on : 2015-09-17 14:39 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Local residents and activists opposing base and asking Navy to fulfill promise of a ‘tourism port’
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The first navy vessel arrived on Sept. 16 at a Jeju naval base set for completion at the end of the year in Gangjeong Village, Seogwipo.

King Sejong the Great, a 7,600-ton AEGIS destroyer, arrived at the base billowing white smoke at 7 am that morning. As it came in, village residents and activists held demonstrations on land and sea to oppose the base’s construction.

A total of five destroyers and convoy ships arrived at the port over the course of the day, including the 4,400-ton ROKS Dae Jo-Yeong. They were the first warships to sail into the new naval base on Jeju.

“This warship docking was intended as a way of examining the safety of the port and dock facilities,” the Navy explained.

The Navy currently plans to conduct test entries, exits, and dockings for 22 vessels of 21 types through mid-October.

Gangjeong residents and activists met with vessels’ arrivals by rowing kayaks to demonstrate at the southern breakwater and holding up signs at the Gangjeong harbor reading, “We oppose the naval base.”

“The very fact that they are conducting their ‘examination’ when the breakwater is completely empty without a single cruise ship seems to contradict the idea that this is supposed to be a combined civilian and military harbor,” said Ko Kwon-il, head of the village countermeasures committee opposing the naval base construction.

Meanwhile, the National Committee to Stop the Jeju Naval Base Construction and other groups issued a statement the same day saying the Navy should “first check to see whether it’s kept its promise to Jeju residents to build a combined civilian-military ‘tourism port’ before it checks whether it is safe for military vessels to enter and exit.”

The groups argued that the port should be generally examined for sailing route safety and environmental issues.

Over 500 residents and activists have faced criminal punishment for opposing the base construction since Gangjeong was first decided on as a site in 2007. The actual construction, which began in 2012, is currently 89% complete, with 93% progress on the port itself and 79% for the on-land section.

By Heo Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent

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