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Tragedy in Gureombi; Tragedy on Jeju-do
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Mentioning history can sometimes be a mean thing to do. Today, however, it is unavoidable.

The rock blasting with which the Lee Myung-bak government went forcibly ahead yesterday at the rocky Gureombi area of Jeju-do will go down as a shameful chapter in Korean history.

The rocks at Gureombi, which lie by the sea at Gangjeong Village in Seogwipo City, Jeju-do, are Korea’s only rock wetlands and are, topographically, speaking, a global rarity. The Gangjeong Village area has also been designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and a marine and cultural protection zone by the Korean government and Jeju-do.

To blast such a precious and beautiful place to smithereens in order to build a naval base is an atrocity that cannot be tolerated.

We have so far pointed out that the building a naval base on Jeju-do, the “island of peace,” is problematic not only in terms of justification, but has also been conducted with serious procedural flaws.

Despite the fact that not a civic group but a technical investigation affiliated to the Prime Minister’s Office recently pointed out errors in the plans for the base, the government has forcibly proceeded with construction.

On top of this, the government, far from considering the historical scars borne by the people of Jeju-do due to suppression of the 1948 uprising on the island, has busied itself with the wanton use of public force, including indiscriminate arrests.

Why is the Lee Myung-bak government behaving so recklessly? Even mentioning the word makes us ashamed, but stubbornness probably played a part.

In a situation where it has already retreated from its plans to build a canal across the country, been humiliated over the Sejong City problem, and is having the harmful consequences of its rushed Four Rivers project exposed, it may be thinking that it cannot climb down yet again.

This attitude may have been further reinforced by worries that, with just over a month left until the general election, constructing the base could become an impossibility if the opposition wins. This is where the problem lies.

The government of a democratic country must enforce policies in accordance with the will of the people. It must not act stubbornly in defiance of public opinion.

Attempting to shift the blame by saying that construction of the naval base was planned under the previous government, too, is cowardly. It is the Lee Myung-bak government, not the Roh Moo-hyun government, that is currently blasting rock at Gureombi; it is also the Lee Myung-bak government, not the Roh Moo-hyun government, that can stop construction.

Jeju-do authorities have given advance warning that it is to issue an order to have land reclamation in public waters for the construction of the base halted, and as requested that construction work cease while the hearing is in progress.

The Ministry of National Defense, however, has made clear that it will continue blasting rock at Gureombi, saying that it will carry out work as planned.

To say that the base is being built in order to keep the peace, while employing “anti-pacifistic” means in the process is no more than self-contradictory “state violence.”

The basis of national security is the spontaneous agreement of the people. How could the construction of even hundreds of military bases guarantee national security if it is resisted by citizens binding themselves in chains?

A government that creates a “battlefield” in its own country and endangers the lives of priests and nuns is a “bad government.” This is why the tragedy of Gureombi and of Jeju-do must not be forgotten. The moment we forget, history will repeat itself.

(Opinion, the Kyunghyang Daily News. March 8, 2012)

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