03/23/2012, 00.00
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Korean Christians call for the release of clergymen arrested on Jeju

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
The construction of a naval base on Jeju Island remains controversial, and locals reject its necessity. Catholic religious institutes celebrate large Mass, demand the release of a Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor arrested for trying to stop construction.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Korea's Catholic Church has called on the government to release a Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor who were arrested for opposing blasting at Gurumbi Beach, on Jeju Island, where the South Korean government plans to build a naval base despite local opposition.

The demand was made during a large Mass organised by the Korean Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life. The service was held at the Jesuits' Apostolate Center in Seoul, with 60 priests concelebrants and some 500 religious and lay people.

Participants urged the government to release the two clergymen, Fr Kim Jeong-uk and Pastor Yi Jeong-hun, claiming that their arrest violates the principle of religious freedom as sanctioned by the constitution.

For Christians, the clergymen acted according to their religious conscience and evangelical conviction. A delegation submitted a petition to the Public Prosecutor, demanding their release.

In 2008, after meeting strong criticism from civil society groups and the Church, the government shelved its plans to build a naval base on the island. However, with local objections ignored, construction began on 8 March of this year, with blasting on the beach.

Famous for its pristine nature and beautiful landscapes, Jeju Island is located south of the Korean Peninsula in the Korea Strait and is governed as an autonomous province.

Opponents to the naval base want to save the local environment and tourist sector. The government says that the US$ 970 million base is necessary for national security.

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