Their struggle is perhaps far from over, but the five villages of Seongsan-eup, Jeju Island–South Korea, who have actively opposed a controversial 2nd airport/ airport city/ aerotropolis project, have come to an initial agreement with Jeju Island’s provincial government. The two parties agreed to reevaluate the original feasibility studies done on the proposed area.
This means the villages have effectively bought time for a land and environmental impact assessment. Existing evaluations came under heavy criticism from many, including the some 15 environmental groups who joined the villagers’ action.
Initial studies were carried out unbeknownst to village leaders. At no point before official declaration of the new airport project were residents consulted. Most residents found out about the project when it was announced in local newspapers. ‘Aerotropolis’ projects are notorious around the globe for corruption and often get slated for areas where residents can mount little effective resistance.
Villages Oppose 2nd Airport
The residents of the five villages united against the airport, who occupy a twenty kilometer area along Jeju Island’s southeastern coastal highway, have been engaged in fighting the project for two years. Most residents are farmers or women abalone divers. The divers’ were recently recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by Unesco. Nearby, to the east, lies Sunrise Peak, also a Unesco-recognized feature of Jeju Island.
The second airport would be the center-piece of several mega-projects that would likely lead to major, and possibly devastating (especially for locals) environmental, cultural and socio-economic shifts in the area.
The resistance to Jeju Island’s 2nd Airport enters its third year this month.
For an overview of the villages’ (Ongpyoung, Sinsan, Nansan, Susan, Goseong) ongoing struggle anti-aero.org has a comprehensive write-up in English.
For my original post on the use of shamanic symbolism in counter airport protests– journey HERE.
The area of the five villages is deeply shamanic, exhibiting many features of Jeju Island’s native religion even in its communal Confucian-based rites. There are several historic holy groves that would be destroyed in the construction of the 2nd airport. Rituals held at the sanctuaries are integral to the spiritual and social life of residents.
On day 35 of Kyung-bae Kim’s dramatic hunger strike, an agreement was finally reached. Kim is the vice-chair of the opposition committee. The committee consists of village leaders, residents, a growing number of University professors, Catholic leaders and civic groups. Citizens from across Jeju Island have been rising in support as well. More than a month prior, key members of the committee, including Kim, set up a protest camp in a grassy area opposite the main provincial office.
UPDATE 10/15: While an agreement was reached on the 13th of November between the Jeju provincial government and the opposition committee, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport still has yet to agree to the proposal for a re-verification of site selection. Thus, vice-chair Kyung-bae Kim has pledged to continue his hunger strike until that agreement is made. He is currently on day 37.
The Fight Will Continue
The fight against the 2nd Airport project is likely far from over. No one is throwing in the towel anytime soon. Islanders, particularly in recent years, are no strangers to conflicts concerning the development of mega-projects which threaten their well-being.
Shamanism in Jeju Island’s coastal region: