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Tension flares in Jeju over controversial base construction

Tension flares in Jeju over controversial base construction

Posted August. 31, 2011 22:55,   


Tension flared Wednesday in the village of Gangjeong in Jeju Island’s capital of Seogwipo ahead of the resumption of the construction of a naval base there.

The Jeju District Court posted signboards at village entrances publicizing the entry ban of civic groups and villagers opposed to the construction. The court sent five officers around 2 p.m. to the village to deliver to the leader of those opposed to the base, Ko Kwon-il, the court’s injunction to ban interference on construction.

The court also put up notification signs at 10 places, including the Jungduk three-way intersection where opposition activists are holding a rally and the entrance of the naval base construction site.

The notification read, “We rule that 41 people including Kang Dong-kyun (Gangjeong representative) must not trespass in the construction site, occupy its entrance, and install facilities anywhere without approval. Anyone who harms or conceals the signs without approval will be punished.”

Fears rose that the court’s ruling would lead to confrontations but no big incidents happened.

Based on the notification, village residents and opposition group members as designated by the court were banned from entering the construction site. The Jeju court accepted Monday the petition by the government and the Navy for a provisional disposition against villagers and civic activists who impeded the construction and ordered a fine of 2 million won (1,876 U.S. dollars) to the petitioners every time they violate the court order.

How the situation will unfold remains unknown, however. The Navy demanded protesters remove illegal facilities within the construction site within two days, but the protesters are set to hold a massive vigil Saturday near the construction site.

Up to 2,000 people are expected to attend the rally, and the protesters will also launch a peace airplane.

Police also nullified the applications submitted by anti-construction residents and civic groups to hold rally through Sept. 15 and increased the number of guards to guard against confrontations.

“Protestors occupied the roads Aug. 24 and 25, interfering with officers executing their duties. The disapproval was made to prevent any potential danger impeding public order,” police said.

Police dispatched 449 officers including those from the Seoul police squad and two additional troops. Around 1,100 police officers are stationed near the village including 500 from Jeju and 157 from the Gyeonggi Province combat police unit.

Police will block illegal activities by protesters joining the vigil Saturday,including those marching into Olle road within the naval base construction site. If the vigil show signs of turning into a strike, police will exert government power to dissolve it by force.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Minister Kwon Do-youp issued a joint statement Wednesday saying, “We ask for cooperation for a prompt promotion of the Jeju naval base construction project. We strongly urge groups to stop any further opposition activities.”

“A nationally important project should not be delayed any further.”

sunggyu@donga.com jhk85@donga.com