Gov. Kim Tae-hwan
By Do Je-hae
Governor Kim Tae-hwan's decision to establish a naval base on Jeju Island may cost him his job depending on the results of a potential re-call vote requested by regional civic groups.
Officials of the Jeju Election Commission said Tuesday that it had received a petition from a coalition of 29 civic groups, which calls for a recall vote to unseat Kim for seeking to house a military facility on the nation's southern resort island despite intense opposition from some residents.
Holding a recall vote would require approval from 10 percent, or 41,649, voters, according to the local election watchdog. There are currently 416,485 residents over the age of 19 who are eligible to vote in the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.
Civic activists submitted an official request for the vote Monday, attached with a list of 77,367 residents who signed in favor of holding the re-call vote.
The election commission is now determining if the petition is justifiable and checking on the authenticity of the signatures. If there are no causes for disqualifying the vote, Jeju will hold a vote sometime in early September.
If this happens, Kim would be the first provincial governor to face a re-call vote since the system was adopted in 2007.
When a vote is ordered, the governor is suspended from conducting his duties for 20-30 days until the final results are declared.
To oust the governor from office, one-third of eligible voters on Jeju must exercise their votes in the re-call election and more than half of them must vote in favor of his removal, in which case he will be immediately dismissed.
If the vote is vetoed, the governor is expected to run for his third bid for the governorship next May. A provincial resident predicted that it would be quite difficult to muster the participation of more than half of the eligible voters. A turnout of less than 50 percent means the re-call is automatically declared null and void.
Governor Kim held a press conference Monday, where he voiced doubts about the ``subjective claims'' made against his office.
``I believe that the re-call vote is inappropriate. Hosting a naval base, combined with tourism facilities, and improving our ports is a necessary state project,'' the 67-year-old said.
The governor added, however, that he would comply with the results of any vote.
After 15 years of debate, Korea's central government and the provincial government of Jeju reached a preliminary agreement this April to build base for military and civilian use at Gangjeong Port near the city of Seogwipo by 2014.
Opponents of the plan have raised concerns that the new facility will heighten regional military tension and disrupt the island's ecosystem.
Construction of the base will begin in December.