By Ümit Enginsoy, Hürriyet Daily News
The South Korean military is determined to finish the construction of a $1 billion naval base on the southern strategic island of Jeju despite ongoing local and international criticism, military officials have said.
“Some International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) members along with other non-governmental organization expressed concern at this development on social and environmental grounds,” Navy Capt. Skin Young-hua told visiting reporters at the planned base.
But “the IUCN recognizes that the Republic of Korea (South Korea) has a responsibility for its own national security, particularly given geopolitical sensitivities in its region, In addition it is accountable for steering its own economic and social development as well as safeguarding its own natural environments,” Skin said.
Jeju-do, or the Jeju Island, is a special autonomous province of South Korea, situated on the country’s largest island that lies in the Korea Strait, to the southwest of South Korea proper. With a population of around 530,000 it has great natural, tourism and historical riches. On March 9, professors, staff and other employees from 26 countries at the U.N.’s University for Peace in Costa Rica urged the South Korean government to stop the construction of the base, “urging for the natural and ecological heritage that is such a precious gift to humanity to the world.”
But the military said the base did not threaten the natural environment. It said the base would meet a need to hold middle or large-sized vessels in both the East and West Seas, and in the event of a war, would be easily reinforced. North Korea, the South’s regional enemy, has protested the base’s construction, which began recently, and together with China is criticizing the base.