The Battle for Jeju Island: How the Arms Race is Threatening a Korean Paradise

Bravo to Actor Robert Redford, who wrote “The Battle for Jeju Island: How the Arms Race is Threatening a Korean Paradise,” (2/3/12) a passionate plea for solidarity with  Jeju islanders and their resistance against the Aegis naval base:

Jeju Island

Imagine dropping fifty-seven cement caissons, each one the size of a four-story house, on miles of beach and soft coral reefs. It would destroy the marine ecosystem. Our imperfect knowledge already tells us that at least nine endangered species would be wiped out, and no one knows or perhaps can know the chain reaction.

That’s what is about to happen on the pristine coastline of Jeju Island, a culturally and ecologically unique land off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula. It seems motivated by the United States’ urge to encircle China with its Aegis anti-ballistic system — something China has called a dangerous provocation — and by the South Korean navy’s construction of a massive naval base for aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers to carry Aegis.


I think the least that environmentalists, peace activists and supporters of democracy can do is express our outrage. You can take action now by visiting the Save Jeju Island Campaign website.  As individuals, tourists, professionals and citizens, you may have added access to pressure points that only you know. For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature will be holding its World Conservation Congress on Jeju Island from September 6 to 15, 2012; something that should be used as leverage.

Secrecy and hypocrisy have let this military base get under way. Facts and activism can stop it before it’s too late.


The article has gotten a very good response.  Apparently, it hit a nerve with the South Korean Navy, which issued this terse and defensive response:

“Republic of Korea(R.O.K) Navy’s standpoint on Robert Redford Wrote on February 5, 2012 – 23:31

Republic of Korea(R.O.K) Navy’s standpoint on Robert Redford’s article “The Battle for Jeju Island: How the Arms Race is Threatening a Korean Paradise” 1. The R.O.K Navy extends our regard for your interest and passion on environmental issues. However, we would like to point out that your article only cites few opponents’ arguments that are far from the truth. 2. First of all, as the Republic of Korea Government already expressed to the public many times, the Jeju Naval Base is being built for the security of R.O.K and has no relations to U.S. defense policy whatsoever. 3. The Jeju Naval Base has undergone each and every legal and administrative environmental procedure including the assessment of environmental impact. In this assessment of environmental impact, related specialists and the locals participated hand in hand. Furthermore, the R.O.K Navy continues to preserve the environment with utmost interest and effort. 4. Last but not least, the Jeju Naval Base is being built as an “eco-friendly civil-military scenic port” that leads harmony with the locals. The Jeju Naval Base will be a leading model concerning any possible environmental issue.”

The R.O.K. has been touting Pearl Harbor as a model of “eco-friendly civil-military scenic port”.  Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor), once an abundant food source for the indigenous people of O’ahu has become a giant military ‘superfund’ facility with more than 740 identified toxic sites.  Although the public can picnic on the shores of Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) at a few locations, the signs warn that going into the water would be trespassing on military property and that eating fish, shellfish and crab are prohibited due to the toxic contamination.  Sacred sites and ancient fishponds and taro fields have been destroyed or are off limits.  Is this the “eco-friendly civil-military scenic port” envisioned for Jeju?

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