Actor Robert Redford protests the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island in an article he contributed to “onearth” magazine. / Korea Times file
By Kim Rahn
American actor Robert Redford, 76, has called for international support to prevent construction of a naval base on Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju.
On the website of the environment magazine “onearth,” the famous director contributed an article titled “The Battle for Jeju Island: How the Arms Race is Threatening a Korean Paradise” to claim the naval base will damage the environment there.
The Korean government is building the military branch in Gangjeong Village but residents there and environmental activists have protested the construction for years, with dozens of them getting arrested, injured during rallies, and convicted for obstructing the Navy’s business.
“Imagine dropping 57 cement caissons, each one the size of a four-story house, on miles of beach and soft coral reefs. It would destroy the marine ecosystem. Our imperfect knowledge already tells us that at least nine endangered species would be wiped out, and no one knows or perhaps can know the chain reaction,” Redford said.
Redford, who is also a long-time trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the move seems motivated by the United States’ plan to encircle China with its Aegis anti-ballistic system with the Korean Navy’s construction of a massive base for aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers.
He said protests from not only environmental activists but also Jeju’s farmers, fishermen and female divers called “haenyeo” have not gained much support because of Jeju’s distance from the mainland and misleading official reports. “As a result, hundreds of acres of fertile farmland have already been bulldozed to prepare for concrete, and caissons would extend this dead zone into the sea,” the actorsaid.
The popular actor urged people around the world to express their outrage by visiting the Save Jeju Island Campaign website. “Secrecy and hypocrisy have let this military base get under way. Facts and activism can stop it before it’s too late,” he said.
The protest is ongoing despite the court’s go-ahead ruling for the construction.