Song is awaiting trial for praying for peace at the remaining part of Gureombi Rock, after cutting the fence and entering the Jeju Navy Base on March 7, 2020. This date marked the 8th anniversary since the blasting of Gureombi Rock in 2012. On March 30, 4,700 people signed the petition calling for the two to not be imprisoned during their trial. Ryu Bok Hee was briefly detained and released on the 30th. Once again on April 3, when the court reviewed the legality of Dr. Song’s arrest warrant, 2,448 people signed the petition calling for his release. The text of those petitions is at: http://savejejunow.org/petition-supporting-song-kang-ho-and-ryu-bok-hee/. He leads the Save Our Sea Team, a local citizens’ monitoring team that has been opposing the naval base project for several years.
In 2006, Jeju Island was designated as an Island of Peace for the purpose of consoling the deep sorrow of the April 3rd Massacre. And the Joongduk coast is surrounded by a UNESCO biosphere reserve, a Global Geological Park, and World Heritage Sites. It is was also a Korean Absolute Preservation Area, which is now being threatened by the naval base construction.
Insisting that the naval base is vital for national security, the Korean government and the navy are enforcing the construction. However, the Ocean Navy expansion plan–upon which the base construction was justified–has been discarded in revisions to the national defense bill regarding strategies to counteract recent security threats. This leaves no justification for this new base. In addition, the original argument from the government when the National Assembly budget bill was passed was to construct a Joint Civil Military site to be used for tourism as well as military purposes. However, that plan has disappeared and now only the military base is being constructed.
By maintaining military alliances with Japan, Australia, South Korea, and India, and through joint military exercises with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, the U.S. is attempting to build up its defense line against China. If the Jeju naval base is constructed, the U.S., which possesses the right to station there according to the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement, will surely use this base to stand up against China. In that case, Jeju Island, an Island of Peace, will become a center of military conflict between the U.S. and China, jeopardizing South Korea’s national security.
Government and military authorities, however, are turning a blind eye to the voices of Gangjeong residents and civil peace activists, as well as to the demands to suspend the construction coming from the opposition parties and the investigation committee of the National Assembly. The navy has even used violence against a protesting civilian. On July 11, the national government recommended that the city government barricade a farm road on the Joongduk coast, which is the last remaining piece of state-owned land under the jurisdiction of Seogwipo city within the site of the naval base construction. This action was a response to the demand from the Ministry of National Defense to discourage any attempts to stage a protest against the naval base construction. However, such efforts by the government to enforce the construction only bring about stronger resistance and conflicts from Gangjeong residents and peace activists.