An 8,800-ton caisson, or a concrete structure, is moved on a barge to Gureombi Seashore in Jeju before being dropped into the sea for a naval base construction there, Thursday. / Yonhap
By Kim Rahn
The blasting of a rock bed for the construction of a naval base off the seashore of Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island continued for a second day Thursday amid protests from residents and civic groups.
Construction companies set off explosives at four locations on Gureombi Seashore in the afternoon as groundwork to situate caissons, retaining, watertight structures used to work on the foundations of bridge piers and docking facilities.
They also moved an 8,800-ton caisson to the seashore from a nearby port to place in position offshore.
As it is impossible to remove such a structure once it is positioned, opponents of the construction are attempting to prevent this from happening.
Hundreds of Gangjeong residents, environmental activists and religious figures staged rallies near the construction site protesting the project, with some of them being taken into police custody.
Despite the calls, the Navy expressed its firm determination to proceed with the construction for completion in 2015.
“The base is a project necessary not only for national security but also Jeju’s development,” a Navy official said.
However, resistance is getting fiercer from activists and civic groups not only in Jeju but also all across the country and even around the world.
The Korean Women’s Association United held a performance in central Seoul to call for the suspension of the construction. “The blasting is a deadly move that destroys life and peace. We support Gangjeong villagers’ struggle and we’ll join the action to save Gureombi and keep Jeju an island of peace,” the group said in a statement.
A coalition of some 140 civic groups plans to hold a rally Saturday and a candlelight protest on March 13.
“The naval base project has been promoted after deliberately excluding residents, and the dispute surrounding it has peaked. The government should make an overall review for the base’s design, economic feasibility and environmental impact,” the coalition said in a press briefing in Seoul Wednesday.
Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), supported the protest in an email disclosed by an activist.
“I would like to express my great admiration for those protesting the continued destruction of Jeju Island, which should be an island of peace, in order to construct a naval base that will only increase already serious threats of military confrontation,” the linguist and essayist said.
In the meantime, hundreds of conservative civic group members staged a rally on Jeju, calling for the government to continue the construction and for civic groups opposed to the project to leave the island.