18 July 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: Matthew Hoey
South Korean undercover police crack down on peaceful resistance to Jeju
Island naval base construction after increased international attention, Gangjeong
Village mayor among those arrested
SOUTH KOREA, July 18, 2011 - Undercover police officers raided the tiny fishing
village of Gangjeong on Jeju Island, off the southern coast of the Republic
of Korea (ROK) and arrested three key figures in the peaceful resistance
to the ROK naval base.
Since base plans were announced five years ago, Jeju residents have used
every democratic means to block its construction, including filing a lawsuit
against ROK Defense Minister and holding a recall vote to oust a local governor
who had consented to the plan. The hugely unpopular project has caused 95%
of the island's population to vote against it.
The recent South Korean aggression is in response to growing global attention
to the residents' cause, including a letter of support from American feminist
and political activist Gloria Steinem, and the launch of an English-language
website and online petition supported by over 100 peace and religious groups
"If we stop this naval base, it will be contagious for peace, the environment,
and democracy," wrote Steinem, urging others to sign the petition. "Jeju
Island means Women's Island. It stands for an ancient balance. We must save
it from the cult of militarism that endangers us all, women and men."
The 400,000 square meter base will be home to a new fleet of destroyers equipped
with advanced Aegis ballistic missile defense systems. Many military analysts
believe that the Jeju Island naval base will serve as part of the U.S. military's
sea-based ballistic missile defense system. This same technology is also
a proven anti-satellite weapon.
Located strategically in the Korea Strait, the island's potential to become
a military target in the event of an armed conflict will increase exponentially
with this naval base, says military analyst Matthew Hoey of the Cambridge-based
Military Space Transparency Project. "The Aegis missile defense system on
Jeju Island is part of a much larger ballistic missile defense network overseen
by the U.S. military," said Hoey. "This system has already or will soon be
provided to India, Japan, Australia and South Korea, and risks forcing the
hand of China's military to shore up its nuclear deterrent."
The ROK Navy expects to complete construction of the base on Jeju in 2014.
Officials say the base, which would accommodate more than 20 warships,
submarines, and other naval vessels will cost about 800-billion-won, or 865
million U.S. dollars. Major contractors on the base construction job include
the Samsung Corporation. The South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced
commitments in 2008 and 2009 to purchase and deploy a fleet of Aegis destroyers
equipped with US anti-ballistic missile and radar systems, built jointly
by Hyundai and Lockheed-Martin.
Jeju, also known as "honeymoon island," attracts many tourists for its high
biological diversity, and unique volcanic topography. The proposed military
facility is in the pristine fishing village of Gangjeong, which is surrounded
by three UNESCO sites. "The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears
testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes," UNESCO
wrote. Jeju is a finalist for the "new 7 wonders of the world" campaign for
its majestic natural beauty.
Construction is in the early stages but is accelerating daily with the dredging
of the island's seabed and its coral reef. In 2009 over 400 Jeju residents
lost a lawsuit against Defense Minister Kim Tae-young claiming the ministry
approved the construction of the base without completing a study of the
environmental impact on the island.
Included among those arrested in Thursday's raid was Brother Song Kang-Ho,
the village mayor Kang Dong-Kyun, and base opposition leader Ko Kwon-Il.
In addition to facing up to five years in prison, the three face hefty fines.
The South Korean Navy and Minister of Justice Lee Gui Nam also issued a notice
to 77 individuals and civil society organizations for disturbing the construction
of the naval base, which bans them from getting into the public water or
approaching the land near the Joongduk coastline where the naval base will
For Korea analysts like Christine Ahn, executive director of the U.S.-based
Korea Policy Institute, the ROK government's "repression against the villagers
communicates to the world that South Korea has returned to the era of