Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jeju governor calls for suspension of destruction beautiful coastline, but South Korea proceeds with explosive blast

"Gangjeong Island" was taken by film director Rain Jung.

(Photo: 오마이뉴스 )

Jeju Island peace activist standing in the destructive aftermath 
of what was once Jeju Island's most beautiful coastline

Today CNN travel writer Francis Cha reported international outrage at explosive demolition of an ancient volcanic rock at what was Jeju Island's most beautiful coastline:
This serene travel photograph of Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island has been headlining the top trending news story on local media outlets and SNS in Korea.

Yesterday morning, construction workers began detonating hundreds of kilograms of explosives on the Gureombi seashore at Jeju Island's Gangjeong Village to make way for a new naval base, sparking a public outcry from environmental activists, Korean netizens and Jeju citizens.

Hundreds of activists have chained themselves to vehicles to block contractors from entering the construction site. Twelve protestors, including a Jeju council member, were "removed from the scene" by the police, according to the Korea Herald.

Gangjeong Village is a small fishing town that derives most of its income from tourism. Villagers are afraid the new naval base will affect their livelihood.

"The village is situated near one of the most beautiful walks on the Olle Trail and many travelers come to see the beautiful views," said a reporter for a local newspaper who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"The need for a new naval base is clear, but what is not clear is why they have to build one in one of the most beautiful places on the island, and threaten the tourism of Gangjeong Village. Jeju is an extremely large island and there are countless other spots that would be a better location for the base."
Particular symbolism has been placed on Gureombi Rock (featured in the above photo). It features a rare topographical quality -- being comprised of a single 1.2 kilometer-long rock formed by lava flowing into the sea and rocks rising from the seabed, reported the Korea Times...
Yesterday, the Jeju Island governor issued an emergency appeal , asking the South Korean government to stop destruction and review the controversial, environmentally destructive project.

Arriving at the broad expanse of the Gureombi coast, one is immediately greeted by the sight of Beom and Seogeon Islands, which seem close enough to touch. In 2002, the coastal area here was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The waters off the coast were designated as a marine ecosystem protection zone by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries that same year, and a Cultural Heritage Administration natural monument protection zone in 2004. In essence, the area‘s preservation value has been acknowledged by both the international community and the South Korean government.

The Gureombi coast is also a habitat for the red-footed crab, narrow-mouthed toad and wild fauna designated as endangered by the Ministry of Environment. The Jeju saebaengi, a freshwater shrimp that is a candidate for endangered species status, has been found there, as has the Cladium chinense, a rare variety of flora. All of these endangered species will gradually disappear as the construction effort continues.

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