‘New airport will fill Jeju Island’s ocean with dung’

22-Oct-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Activists who have been opposing the plan for a second airport on Jeju Island raised their voices in front of the presidential office in Seoul, condemning the government for unreliable site feasibility tests and ignoring the island’s ecology.

An emergency committee, created by 111 Jeju civic groups and 39 environmental groups nationwide, demanded on October 16 that President Moon Jae-in disapprove the plan being pushed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The protesters condemned the ministry for having ignored the voices of the islanders and Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Council that are concerned with the plan.

The land ministry is “hurrying” the plan, submitting its potential environmental hazards evaluation report with incomplete accountability to the Ministry of Environment, according to the protesters, while ignoring the residents and experts who say the plan is unnecessary and will harm the island’s environment.

The land ministry, “to maintain its colossal authority amid the country’s high demand for land development, is turning the entire country into a construction zone,” the committee said.

“As a result, the island, treasured for its unique geological and ecological traits as a former volcanic site, has become the subject of investment by heavyweight capitals.”

“While the island is suffering from excessive development, an additional airport will pour oil into the blaze of tourism development. We don’t want Jeju Island’s waters to fill up with dung.”

The island saw over 15 million tourists in 2015, which jumped from 5 million 10 years earlier, according to the committee. Over 99 million square meters of land was developed into golf courses and resorts, even affecting Jeju Gotjawal ? a local forest considered the island’s “lungs.” The protesters also claimed tourists have produced over 100,000 tonnes of garbage the province hasn’t been able to dispose of. They also said unmanaged sewage is leaking into the ocean.

The protesters argued the new airport, planned in the island’s eastern Seongsan area, will increase such damage.

The plan, prepared since 2014 with costs estimated at more than 5 trillion won ($4.2 billion), lacks transparency due to the land ministry’s information manipulation and obscuring of facts, according to the committee.

“The ministry has been hiding the research results by France’s ADP Ingenierie which studied the plan’s necessity more than three years ago. The results said the existing Jeju International Airport can by itself cater to the rising number of passengers expected by the land ministry if it is revamped and improves use of runways. The ministry’s feasibility tests and environmental evaluation report aren’t trustworthy.”

The protesters also claimed the new airport could act as a new air force base. They were concerned that the island, which introduced in 2016 a naval base despite residents’ criticism based on environmental and geological concerns, will become a high-profile military site.

The demonstration started the day before in front of the Sejong government Complex, where the protesters urged the environment ministry to dismiss the land ministry’s environmental evaluation report they claimed was “unreliable and falsified.”

Noh Min-kyu, a Jeju resident, has been staging a one-man protest without food in front of the Sejong complex since October 18. He claimed the land ministry’s report didn’t faithfully explore the island’s underground grottos and caves, terrestrial conditions, possible noise pollution, and local migrating birds, all of which will be affected by the new airport.

Following a press conference, the protesters paraded from Cheong Wa Dae to Sejongno Park, one kilometer south, holding a giant green banner symbolising peace. They said they will stage a sit-in in front of Cheong Wa Dae until late this month.

The land ministry requested the Jeju provincial government submit collective feedback from islanders on the plan by November 4. The residents were asked their opinions on the airport’s expected demands, Seongsan’s feasibility as an airport site, the airport’s size, construction, operation and budget, and how it will benefit the islanders.

The land ministry, upon receiving the opinions, will be audited by the national airport policy committee, followed by a joint agreement with the environment ministry before the plan’s official notification.

The land ministry told media earlier this month it will “hurry with the plan since it is an urgent project and has already been delayed long enough.”

The land ministry prepared a draft for the plan early this year and planned to officially launch the project within the first half of the year. It, however, met fierce civic protests and has been delayed since.

The draft stated the second Jeju airport will be built on over 5.4 million square meters of land, with a terminal over 167,000 cubic meters in size. It will have 44 apron stops, a main runway 3,200 meters long and 380 meters wide and six side runways.

According to the Construction Economic Daily, after the first construction phase is completed in 2035, the airport is expected to cater to almost 17 million visitors a year, and following completion of a second phase in 2055, that number will rise to almost 20 million a year.

The land ministry selected Korea Airports Corporation as the sole operator of the planned airport. The Jeju government, upon the plan’s draft makeup, requested partial authority over airport operations from the ministry. It is expected the Jeju government, while not granted the authority, will instead be allowed to operate part of the airport’s “landside” venues like parking lots, shopping and leisure facilities.



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