Indigenous Islanders are Employing Shamanic Symbolism to Resist Jeju Island’s Proposed 2nd Airport.

Onpyoung Village resident in costume, speaking as the Youngdeung Goddess at a demonstration last week. The goddess is worshipped in a rite performed by shamans each lunar February.

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.

Residents dressed as Jeju’s three founding father figures, Go, Yang and Boo, the mythical original residents of Jeju Island.
“You’re trashing our hometown and we’ll have nowhere to go.”
Farmers and women divers (haenyo) from the village gather in front of the Provincial Building.


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.

New Airport Advertisement (screenshot below from Jeju Domin Ilbo)

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 2.43.48 PM

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.

“Jeju Second Airport: Out!” Sinsan Village.
Sinsan Village resident shows photos from a village demonstration where several hundred people gathered.
Sinsan Village’s mayor shows researcher Tommy Tran a map of the proposed airport, explaining exactly what consequences it would have for locals.

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.

Residents of Onpyoung Village expressed their belief in the  lasting value of owning land as opposed to a one-time payoff, which would be well below market value at that.

Expect a fight on Jeju Island. Stay tuned for a post on how this development will likely affect local shamanic practices.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. David Nemeth says:

    Un****ingbelievable! On the heels of the Gangyeong Village fiasco comes THIS desecration! Instead of a
    Peace Island the eastern Pacific Rim get another Angeles City and Okinawa 2 …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. joeyrositano says:

    Thanks for the link. I will dig into this later this evening. Seems like it’s a scandal everyday on Jeju. I hope people realize the size of the issue.


  3. Tanner Jones says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Joey. This sounds JUST like the naval base in Gangjeong, which makes me nervous about the chance of the villagers stopping this ridiculous airport. I need to get on a plane and dust off the old pitchfork. This blog is great, by the way. I’ve been so wrapped up in getting my life back in order at home, it’s the only thing keeping me in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rose Bridger says:

    Thank you so much for this very informative post and the wonderful photos. I have read industry stories about the planned airport but your article is the first and only information about opposition to the project that I have found. I am a co-founder of the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM). Airport centric, ‘airport city’, developments are proliferating worldwide, and often displace or threaten to displace people in particular rural communities. GAAM works to build up an international network of local struggles against aerotropolis ‘airport city’ projects. I look forward to finding out more about the local people’s resistance to the airport and the associated commercial development. GAAM should be able to help raise international awareness of resistance to the airport and we are in contact with similar local campaigns around the world.


  5. Rose Bridger says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Residents of Jeju Island (South Korea) are resisting a proposed airport that would displace people from five villages. The project has been imposed on local communities without consultation, and with little consideration on how the planned influx of millions of tourists would impact on rural people. The majority of local people oppose the airport, and it is being met with a series of protests.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s