Global action needed to resist a naval base on the island of Jeju

An unwanted naval base in a UNESCO-designated preserve is proceeding in spite of local resistance, increased military tension in the region and a looming ecological disaster. “Canadians are urged to join the global community in its resistance to this irrational decision by the world’s power brokers”, said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.” “A global outcry is needed to support the civil society in South Korea in having this project abandoned”.

Jeju Island, South Korea boasts several UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites including one of the finest systems of lava tube caves on earth. With its multi-coloured carbonate roofs and floors and dark-coloured lava walls, this site of outstanding beauty bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes.

The most beautiful coastline on the island is the Jungdeok coast, which is also site for the naval base now under construction. Matthew Hoey, an arms control analyst who is the international coordinator of the Campaign to Save Jeju Island stated, “This base site is about two kilometres from the nearest UNESCO World Natural heritage site.  It is madness that the government is allowing the military to destroy the beauty of the island to build this dangerous facility…it is the ultimate hypocrisy.”

The massive naval project is also a human rights disaster. Ignoring mounting opposition, construction continues despite the 94% of Jeju inhabitants who oppose it. The people of Jeju have developed a unique culture and language that are distinct from those of mainland Korea, and the island is famous for its matriarchal family structure, symbolized by the haenyeo (“sea women”), who make a living from deep-sea diving to harvest marine products.

Both the building of the base and the future traffic of naval ships, submarines and the adjoining vehicular traffic will create a situation that will undoubtedly ruin this unique wonderland. In terms of promoting international peace, the intent to create a naval base for American warships and nuclear submarines is considered by many as military folly.

Canadians citizens must join the voices of those around the world to save this unique island and its people. The Global Greens have come out in strong support for the efforts of the Republic of Korea civil society to oppose to the project, and are participating in the International Solidarity Action (2-9 September 2012) during the IUCN Jeju World Conservation Congress.