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External groups going to Jeju Island to protest base project

External groups going to Jeju Island to protest base project

Posted March. 12, 2012 00:37,   


The explosion work for the civilian-military tourist base in the village of Gangjeong in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, was temporarily suspended Sunday in the wake of massive protests against the project.

A source from the Korean Navy said, “We suspended the work to level land by sorting out rocks and soil generated from explosions,” adding, “The work will resume Monday.”

More than 100 people opposed to the construction held a rally in front of the main gate of the office of the Jeju naval base task force. They demanded that the project be scrapped and that the explosion work be suspended.

More than 10 protesters in life jackets dived in waters off the port of Gangjeong at 5 p.m. Saturday to enter the shores of the construction site. Most of them were known to be members of organizations based outside of Jeju or were independent activists.

Organizations not based in Jeju are known to have begun entering the island in around March last year. They have since expanded their influence by telling Gangjeong residents of the illegitimacy of the naval base. The residents initially kept their distance from them but joined forces after getting support from the groups.

Police said the organizations are named "People Bringing about Peace and Reunification," "Pioneers" and "Life and Peace Association," which conservatives call pro-North Korea and leftist organizations. Four anti-war foreign activists have also joined the anti-base protest.

Around 18 to 22 people from the three organizations -- 10 from the former and four to six each from the remaining two -- are known to reside in the village, according to police. With the base construction drawing national attention due to the explosion work, more than 50 additional protesters have entered the village.

More than 10 people with no affiliation have also joined the protest and posting support for anti-base rallies on social networking sites and Internet clubs in real time.

A Gangjeong resident said, “When entering the village, members of the external organizations instilled into residents a sense of fear that the village will disappear due to the naval base and degenerate into pawns of U.S. soldiers, warning that many prostitutes catering to foreigners will result,” adding, “Each group has its own interests but they seem to unite when protests are required.”

Police in Seogwipo requested arrest warrants Sunday for Christian pastors Lee Jeong-hun and Kim Jong-sul and Father Kim Jeong-wook on the charges of property damage and illegal trespassing. They allegedly cut a hole at the bottom of a six-meter-tall fence to the south of the construction site and entered the shores of the site at 10 a.m. Friday.

Separately, a 20,000-ton barge anchored at the port of Hwasun in Seogwipo for the construction work was pushed by strong winds, crashing into three fishing vessels at 2:10 p.m. Sunday and sinking two of them.