03/10/2012, 00.00
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Jeju Church protests construction of a new military base

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
The island was to house a new outpost of the South Korean Navy but after protests from residents, the project was shelved. Without telling anyone, on 8 March, the demolition teams blew up a piece of coast. The bishops: "Are we a democracy or a dictatorship? The government can not ignore us. "

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The demolition work on the island of Jeju "does not make sense. We live in a democracy not a dictatorship. But the government wants to finish its naval base before the general election, and will not listen to the legitimate protests of the population" speaking to AsiaNews is the bishop of Jeju and president of the Korean Bishops Conference, Msgr. Peter Kang Woo-il.

The bishop refers to the building site opened on March 8 on the island for a military naval base. The project, presented in 2008, was received with much criticism from civil society and the Church and had been put aside. Until the arrival of the construction teams, which even blew up parts of the coastline.

Jeju Island is located south of the peninsula, in the Korea Strait and is governed by an independent provincial government. It is famous for its unspoilt nature and the beautiful landscapes. The protesters oppose the construction of the naval base to protect its ecology and tourism. The government would argue that the new naval base, at a cost of 970 million U.S. dollars, is necessary for national security.

According to Msgr. Kang, "at the end of 2011 the National Assembly in Seoul blocked the allocation of funds and jobs. It was said that there were too many problems and that the project should be revised. Instead they have started it: I do not understand why the government has refused to communicate this change to the public. We are not under a dictatorship. "

The issue is not just local: "Even though they represent only 1% of the population, residents of Jeju have the strength to oppose it. Here peace is at stake, because a naval base means a re-examination of all the assets already approved. I spoke with the Prime Minister and other officials, but they did not give me satisfactory answers. "

Msgr. Matthew Lee Yong-hun, Bishop of Suwon and president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops' Conference also spoke on the subject. In a statement, the bishop has condemned the blasts, "which really hit the opinions of residents, and not only their coast. The government is eroding public confidence, a serious mistake."

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