Indigenous residents of Jeju Island’s southeastern region are employing traditional shamanic culture to protest the airport that is slated to displace the populations of five villages. So far, the mainstream media outside of Jeju has done little to document resistance to the project. The new airport is opposed by the majority of residents in the villages affected. Hundreds of locals from Onpyoung and Sinsan villages, elderly and young alike, including middle school students, have enacted a series of demonstrations against the development.
Judging from a simple google search, the English language media about Jeju Island’s second airport has yet to cover the fact that there is a majority of locals who will be forcefully displaced if all goes to plan. While regional media has covered this from last week, the issue is being presented as if there is a significant split of opinion. That may be so in other regions of Jeju Island (Jeju City, for instance) but after having spent time speaking with people in two of the villages affected (Onpyoung and Sinsan), it seems far from the case.
This isn’t a comprehensive post. I’ll be updating with another post in my series on Jeju Island’s destroyed shamanic shrines. I just want to offer this information for the sake of starting a dialogue in English. The second airport, which will break ground in 2018, is being advertised on the mainland as an option for vacationers to fly directly to the eastern area. The island hopes to bring in an additional ten million tourists with little thought to how this will affect the rural population that has thrived there for generations. The residents of these areas are a cultural treasure themselves, being in large part practitioners of Jeju’s shamanic religion, and speakers of the Unesco-designated, endangered language Jeju-eo. The second airport is a national project and was simply thrust upon the locals last month without consultation or debate.
Promotional campaigns like the one above are contentious on Jeju, as they have left one important thing out, the opinions of locals on the matter of channeling so much traffic to an area of the island which has been enjoyed for its pristine nature. The new airport, I am told, would put a plane in the air over the Unesco protected area of Sunrise Peak and surrounding land as frequently as every five minutes. Many have suggested exploring other options such as expanding the already existing airport, a mere forty-five minute drive from the area in question.
Signs opposing the new airport are spread out over about a 20 kilometer route along the major roads that lead to the five villages participating in demonstrations. There is also a pro-airport propaganda campaign that seems to be affiliated with Korea’s ruling Saenuri party. It’s a much further reaching campaign and, such ads, in favor of a second airport in the region, can be found in the two larger towns that cap off the five villages along the coastline (Seongsan and Pyoseon). Such ads have been placed prominently throughout Jeju City.
Expect a fight on Jeju Island. Stay tuned for a post on how this development will likely affect local shamanic practices.