Environment Congress on Jeju ignores naval base
6th September 2012 - by Ellen Teague
The Columbans in Korea and Britain have complained to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Conservation Congress (WCC)
that their 2012 Congress, which opens on 6 September on Korea’s Jeju Island ignores the environmental destruction going on just a few miles away from their gathering.
Only four miles to the east of the Jungmun Resort, in traumatized Gangjeong Village, construction has begun on a huge new military base, big enough to house 7,000 navy personnel, 20 warships, including nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, submarines and Aegis Missile Defense destroyers, in a thinly veiled threat against the U.S.’s new global competitor — China. Construction crews are rapidly devastating a region of rare beauty, vibrant soft-coral habitats, pure freshwater springs, numerous endangered species, and traditional sustainable cultures and villages, while police actions are brutalizing local populations who attempt to oppose the development.
The Congress (6-15 September) – which happens every four years – is billed as “the world’s largest and most important conservation event,” aiming “to improve how we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development.” In fact, the base-construction project nearby violates every principle and sub-principle of the Earth Charter, which IUCN adopted in 2004 as a “guide to IUCN policy and programme”. Yet when environmental groups beseeched IUCN leadership to take a stance on the project, which was railroaded through in violation of numerous civil-rights and environmental laws, the Director-General and President passed the buck: “IUCN recognises that the Republic of Korea has a responsibility for its own national security…”
The Korean Catholic Church and the Columbans feel it is also extremely hypocritical that the base’s lead construction contractor, Samsung, is co-sponsoring this event.
A very practical way we in Britain can help is by sending the following letter to IUCN - to and copy to
To the IUCN and the World Conservation Congress
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has organized the World Conservation Congress (WCC) at ICC JEJU in Jeju Island, which is expected to be attended by more than 10,000 people from over 1,100 organizations in 180 countries.
Civic environmental groups in South Korea have a high regard for the international cooperation projects executed by the IUCN, which endeavor to help develop and implement policies that contribute to protecting the environment. We also recognize that IUCN is globally influential; the organization carries significant weight over the registration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sets criteria regarding internationally endangered species and develops conservation plans.
However, Korea’s Lee Myung-Bak administration has destroyed four major rivers, continues to blindly pursue nuclear power, and continues to forcefully construct a naval base at Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, despite fierce opposition, both locally and nationally. Against this backdrop, civic environmental groups and activists in South Korea are vehemently against the government’s building of the naval base on Jeju Island, which is destroying biodiversity and brutally violating human rights in the name of national security.
They are concerned that the IUCN Secretariat is not addressing any of the current environmental issues in South Korea among the themes for the upcoming WCC. The civil environmental organizations of South Korea express deep concern with the IUCN’s support of the construction of a naval base in Gangjeong village, Jeju Island. Last April, based on false information provided by the South Korean government, the IUCN issued an official position stating that “construction of the naval base in Gangjeong is valid according to legitimate processes.” It is questionable whether the IUCN put any effort into verifying the credibility of the data provided by the South Korean government.
The civil environmental organizations of South Korea, which seek peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula and with Northeast Asia neighbors, urge IUCN to review its position regarding the naval base project in Gangjeong. They would like clarification as to whether the IUCN is aware of the serious violations of environmental laws, which have led to the destruction of species which are assigned as “endangered” by the Korean government. They wonder how the IUCN arrived at its conclusion that the naval base construction “is valid according to legitimate processes.”
The naval base is being built at a UNESCO Biosphere Conservation Area (designated in 2002), and was designated a Cultural Protection Zone by the South Korean government in 2000 and 2004. In 2002 the government’s Ministry of Land designated it a Marine Ecosystem Conservation Area; in 2006, the government of Jeju Island designated it a Marine Provincial Park; in 2006, the Ministry of Environment designated it an “Ecological Excellent Village”; in 2007, the Jeju Island government designated it an Absolute Retention Coastal Area; and in 2008, the Ministry of Environment designated it a Natural Park. We ask you to please clarify how the IUCN would consider a project as “legitimate,” when the government mobilizes both public and private police forces against residents who have committed no crime other than to object to the project’s desecration of this precious conservation area.
Gangjeong village in Jeju is an area that must be conserved in accordance with the values of the IUCN. That would mean that the military base construction must be blocked. The IUCN must actively seek to halt the naval base construction at Gangjeong and to restore and preserve the area’s natural ecosystems through a resolution at the WCC General Assembly.
South Korea environmentalists are gravely concerned that the government will take advantage of the WCC General Assembly proceeding this September in Jeju to advance its illegitimate national projects.
We agree with their concerns and our specific request is that IUCN distances itself from supporting the construction of a naval base on Jeju.