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Opposition`s flipflopping on Jeju naval base

Posted March. 08, 2012 06:14,   

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Han Myeong-sook, the chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party, said at the National Assembly in February 2007, when the Roh Moo-hyun administration was in power, “The Jeju Island naval base is inevitably needed to foster the Navy and secure sea routes to the south.” Lee Hae-chan, a former prime minister who is now adviser to the party, also said in July the same year, “Opposing the construction of a naval base in Jeju on the grounds that it is the island of peace is unreasonable.” Former President Roh said at the Jeju Peace Forum in June the same year, “The Navy is necessary to protect Jeju and the Jeju naval base is a preventive one.”

Shortly after the bedrock explosion work to signal the start of full-fledged construction of the naval base was conducted at Gurumbi Coast in Jeju Tuesday, Han went to the site along with Lee Jung-hee, chief of the minor United Progressive Party, to protest the construction. Han said Friday, “We don’t know what disaster will come in this condition, so we need to completely re-examine the construction of the naval base," adding, “The Roh Moo-hyun government had planned to create a civilian-military base, but the incumbent government is pushing to build a naval base.” This is a groundless claim, however. President Lee Myung-bak confirmed a plan to establish a civilian-military tourist base where cruise ships can stop with an investment of 977 billion won (870 million U.S. dollars) by 2014. Under the plan, a comprehensive resort town housing an oceanic leisure resort and water sports facilities will be set up near the base.

Nevertheless, Jeju is opposed to the base construction in signaling the issuance of an order to stop reclamation work for public water surface. An authorized organization has finished simulation work for entry and departure of cruise ships using standardized methods in accordance with maritime laws. Demanding the suspension of the construction on the grounds that Jeju has not joined the work is a farfetched claim. Though the project had been stopped for more than seven years since 2002 to conduct environmental evaluations at Jeju’s request, the island government is again demanding a suspension. This is meant to hinder the construction.

The naval base is intended to protect maritime routes in waters south of Jeju and allow speedy action in case of disputes in Korea’s sovereign waters. It is a prerequisite to protecting national sovereignty and interests. As the saying goes, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Whether the country can take the first step toward making an ocean-worthy Navy will be determined by the Jeju naval base. The government should not swayed by the protest by opposition parties.