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Jeju naval base construction, Republic of Korea

Famous academics and international activist protest against naval base in Gangjeong (designated UNESCO Geoparks) with local activists, religious groups and villagers during more than 7 years (2009-2016).


The fight of Gangjeong Village against Jeju naval base is known as one of the longest and strongest protests against military bases constructions [5].  The plan was first proposed in 1993 but Jeju citizens ignored about the plan until 10 years later [5]. The base was chosen for its strategic forward location that could provide rapid response to any type of activity in the neighbouring sea shared with China and Japan, along with protecting the vital Korean shipping lanes through which 99% of Korean exports and all oil imports flow.[2] After meeting strong opposition previously in Hwasun Port and Wimi, Jeju Island Governor Kim Tae-hwan pushed forward the project at Gangjeong Village in 2007. The project proceeded as in December 2009, the Governor Kim nullified the ACA (Absolute Conservation Area) designation to the area in order to proceed with the naval base construction.  96% of local people voted against the construction at a voting that took place in 2013 arguing that building the military residences in the village was decided on without the agreement of the residents. There are two main reasons that villagers and their supporters opposed the government's decision. First, the decision was made based on the result of expedient voting held with small number of villagers, and lacked democratic procedure [4]. Moreover, the concerns are over biodiversity, farming, fishery and beautiful landscape of the village. Jeu island recognized by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage Site and Gangjeong village form part of a walking trail (called Olle-gil) developed for tourism. The island was declared protected area by UNESCO Global Geo Park in Oct., 2010 [1] During the protest in 2011, protesters claimed to have suffered verbal and physical harassment from the ROK Navy Ship Salvage Unit.  As a villager said in a documentary "This project have destroyed our village in two (pro navy base vs contra navy base) [3]. The local people haven’t been the only protesters. Religions groups, scholars, international environmental activists, and famous intellectuals such as, Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Walden Bello, David Suzuki, Gloria Steinem and Robert Redford showed their opposition to the military base construction and also denouncing violence against protests. The linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, sent a letter to President, calling for a stand for humanitarian principles and halting the government's plan to use force to drive out the protesters [7].  The specifically denounce police brutality and claims that over 500 people have been arrested [8]. Eventually, the navy base was constructed and officially opened in 26 February 2016 [6]; over 500 people got arrested while they were protesting against the military base. The international environmental activists: Angie Zelter, Benjamain Monnet and Alpha Newberry were arrested and deported from the country [9].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Jeju naval base construction, Republic of Korea
Country:Republic of Korea
State or province:Jeju Province
Location of conflict:Gangjeong village
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Military installations
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Apartment buildings in Gangjeong Village to accommodate officers who will work at the base.

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Project area:52.7(land) 20(sea)
Level of Investment for the conflictive project907,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:580,000 (Jeju population) 1,900 (Gangjeong village)
Start of the conflict:28/04/2009
Company names or state enterprises:Republic of Korea defense procurement agency (ROK) from Republic of Korea
Samsung Group from Republic of Korea
Relevant government actors:Korean Commercial Arbitration Board
Korean Navy
Jeju Provincial government
Ministry of defence
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Korean Federation of Environmental Movements Jeju Branch (
Save Jeju Now (
International Union for Conservation of Nature
International Interfaith Solidarity
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
famous intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Walden Bello, David Suzuki, Gloria Steinem and Robert Redford )
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky sent a letter to President pointed out that besides environmental matters,posible political confrontations betwen countries
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Soil erosion
Other Environmental impactsloss of coastal zone
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of agricultural landscapes
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
They changed the area's protection level from Absolute Conservation Area to null in order to construct the naval base. International environment activists(Angie Zelter, Benjamain Monnet and Alpha Newberry) were arrested and deported.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The navy base was constructed and officially opened in 26 February 2016
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Feminist Activism as Interfaith Dialogue: A Lesson from Gangjeong Village of Jeju Island, Korea, Keun-Joo Christine Pae (2014) Journal of Korean Religions 5-1 p.55-69
[click to view]

Jeju naval base construction resumed, but conflict remains
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Kim, Jiwon. Kim, Yongwhan. Yoo Joseph Jai-sung (2014) The Public as active agents in social movement: Facebook and Gangjeong movement. Computers in Human Behavior 37 p.144/151
[click to view]

Ko, Chang Hoon (2011) Role and Status of Jeju Island as a Demilitarized World Peace Island for Sustainable Pacific Civilization, World Environment and Island Studies 1-1, p.33-50
[click to view]

Kim, Ah-hyun(2011)Construction process of naval base in Jeju Gangjeong village, What is the problem. Citizen and the world 20th, 2011.12, 97-108

제주 강정마을 해군기지 건설과정, 무엇이 문제인가, 김아현, 시민과세계 제20호, 2011.12, 97-108
[click to view]

The Ghosts of Jeju (Documentary)
[click to view]

[1] UNESCO Global Geoparks
[click to view]

[2] Jeju navy base, why is it necessary?
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[4] "Green Review" No. 120, September-October 2011《녹색평론》제120호 2011년 9-10월호
[click to view]

[5] Save Jeju Now
[click to view]

[6] Jeju naval base. Residents’ support needed to develop new port
[click to view]

[8] IUCN blocks anti-naval base Jeju Villagers from participation
[click to view]

[9] International Activists were arrested. 해군기지 반대시위로 추방되는 외국인은
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[3] MBC PD note TV report
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A video clip at the rally
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Dance to protest against the naval base
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Hyerim Yoon (Department of Geography, UAB), SM (ICTA-UAB)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2520
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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