ACTION ALERT: No More US Airbases on South Korea’s Jeju Island

December 10th, 2019 - by Save Jeju Now

ACTION ALERT: Halt the Second US Airbase on Jeju Island

Save Jeju Now

SOUTH KOREA (December 8, 2019) — The struggle to stop the Jeju 2nd airport project is currently the biggest one in Jeju, Korea. Since the planned second airport will very likely be an air force base, it is much related to the subject matter of anti-militarism. We think it is an urgent time to have your support as the government may notify the final decision on the project within this month. Your initial signs may help us to change the course. Please sign on and share this with your networks. It would be helpful if many signatures are gathered by around December 15th. 

 ACTION ALERT: An International Petition to Urge the Halt of the Second Jeju 2nd Airport (Air Force Base) Project

To: Moon Jae-in, President, Republic of Korea
•   Kim Hyun-Mee, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT), Republic of Korea
•   Cho Myung-rae, Minister of Environment (MOE), Republic of Korea
•   Jeong Kyeong-doo, Minister of National Defense (MND), Republic of Korea
•   Won Hee-ryong, Governor of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Government, Republic of Korea

(December 2019) — We the undersigned, who respect life and love peace, sincerely request the South Korean Government and Jeju Province Government to call off the Jeju 2nd airport project.

1. Jeju, the heaven-blessed Island of the Republic of Korea, is itself a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. However, Jeju is one of five areas in the world which clearly suffers from over-tourism (BBC news, April 2018). Lately, Jeju suffers from exhaustion of underground water, overflow of trash, and pollution of the sea. Its Islanders are threatened with the loss of their livelihoods and homes. When the annual arrival of 15 million tourists already exceeds Jeju’s environmental capacity, the idea of doubling the number of tourists per year by constructing the 2nd airport and its connection roads not only threatens the forests and oreums of Jeju but also the lives of the 670,000 Jeju Islanders.

What is necessary to Jeju is not increased development or over-tourism but to preserve the ecology and environment of Jeju. The citizens of the world have communal responsibility for protecting the Earth. We are concerned about the destruction of the ecology and environment of Jeju due to the 2nd airport.

2. Despite the denial by the MOLIT and Jeju Island government, the Jeju 2nd airport will be highly likely to be used as an air force base. Jeong Kyeong-doo, Minister of National Defense, stated this November that there could be no other candidate areas for the Air Force’s planned Southern Search and Rescue unit than the planned 2nd airport area. Given the size and length of runway which much exceed the civilian aviation demand of Jeju, it is clear that the 2nd airport would be used as an air force base.

The South Korean MND proposed the idea for a Jeju air force base in its mid-term plan in 1987, and it continuously reflected the idea in its mid-term plans since 1997. It changed the name of project from air force base to Southern Search and Rescue unit in 2006. It is just like the Jeju navy base being called the Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Beautiful Tourism Port.

Additionally, it would be very likely that the Jeju navy base is connected to these plans for an air force base. Located in a geopolitically strategic point of Northeast Asia, the militarization of Jeju and its use as part of the United States domination strategy against China threaten to make Jeju the powder keg of Northeast Asia. Needless to say, it will draw the peace of the world into crisis.

When President Moon Jae-in was still a Presidential candidate in 2017, he made clear his opposition to the idea of the Southern Search and Rescue unit, like most of the other major Presidential candidates. Due to concerns regarding the militarization of Jeju, the 2nd Jeju airport should be cancelled.

3. We, as global citizens concerned with human rights and democracy, express our concern that the Jeju 2nd airport project is being enforced in an undemocratic and unilateral way, as was the Jeju navy base construction. At least 30,000 Jeju Islanders were massacred under the direction of the US Army Military Government and oppressed by its puppet South Korean government during the Jeju April 3rd uprising and massacre (March 1, 1947 – Sept. 21, 1954). Jeju was designated as the Island of Peace in 2005 to overcome the pain of Jeju April 3rd. However, Jeju navy base construction was enforced disregarding the Islanders’ opinion and there were grave infringements of human rights and democracy.

In the preparation process of the Jeju 2nd airport, worrisome situations have been found. The residents of Seongsan, as well as other Islanders heard the idea of the 2nd airport in Seongsan only through the central government’s unilateral announcement in 2015.

The ADPi (Aéroports de Paris Ingénierie) report, made available to the public only after MOLIT and Jeju Island government hid it for four years, shows that there is no need for a 2nd airport. Won Hee-ryong, the Island governor, is refusing to make a space for public opinion-gathering despite demands for such by more than 80% of Islanders.

There have been numerous protests against the Jeju 2nd airport project, such as six Jeju islanders including a resident of Seongsan who carried out long-term hunger strikes for between 16 and 42 days. We request the Moon Jae-in Government and Won Hee-ryong’s Jeju provincial government to respect the Jeju Islanders’ opinion to call off the Jeju 2nd airport.

4. Finally, we are concerned that the Jeju 2nd airport will contribute to accelerating the climate crisis which poses an immediate and urgent threat to us, and all humankind. The sea surface temperature off of Jeju Island is rising three times faster than that of the average sea surface in the world. Jeju Island is the indicator of the climate crisis for the whole Korean peninsula.

We must seriously consider and stop reckless development and militarization, the main culprits of the climate crisis. Jeju is not only for Islanders. The concerns of Jeju, one part of our Earth, concern all of us, citizens of the Earth, as well. Spiritual leaders of the world including Pope Francis, and above all the youth, our next generation, are desperately urging us to respond to the climate crisis, and stop over-development, which accelerates the climate crisis.

We strongly urge politicians in South Korea and Jeju Island not to abandon their responsibility. And we also appeal to our friends in Jeju to save the ecology of the Earth together with us. We are borrowing the Earth from our next generations. We are jointly responsible for the life and peace of the Earth.

Petition: Halt Plans for a Second Airport on Jeju Island

Friends of the Earth Korea

An open letter to the Honorable Kim Hyun-mee, Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Republic of Korea.

Dear Minister Kim Hyun-mee,
To the background of the global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, the undersigned individuals and organizations wish to highlight their grave concerns over the proposed construction of a second airport on South Korea’s Jeju Island.

With 82,000 flights and 14 million passengers a year, Seoul’s Gimpo airport to Jeju Island is the world’s busiest flight path. Containing three UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites, Jeju Island is a place of outstanding natural beauty, but is limited in space and resources, relying almost entirely on groundwater to sustain its 690,000 residents. Skyrocketing tourist numbers in recent years have pushed Jeju’s infrastructure to the brink and led to the destruction of large tracts of the island’s precious forest cover.

The South Korean government now wants to build a second massive airport on Jeju. The aim: a combined total of 41 million passengers a year to the island.

Jeju residents, supported by environmental groups in South Korea, are calling for a suspension of planned construction until the government can demonstrate that the new airport will not disenfranchise local communities or undermine Korea’s commitments to conserve biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The new airport is being constructed for short-term gain, but ignores long-term risks. Jeju Island has no major rivers and has difficulty constructing surface water reservoirs, due to the island being composed of porous volcanic rock. Jeju Island thus relies almost entirely on groundwater supplies. As groundwater levels fall due to over-extraction for tourism, and as sea-levels rise due to climate change, salt-water intrusion and pollution from development threaten the groundwater resources that have sustained the island’s population for millennia.

We the undersigned therefore call on the South Korean government to conduct a comprehensive, international best-standard Environmental Impact Assessment for the second Jeju airport and to cancel the plan outright if there is evidence that it will disenfranchise local communities; threaten biodiversity; and/or undermine commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Note: This is an abbreviated version of the letter. For the full text, with citations, follow this link.­­­­­­

Additional Information

(December 2, 2019) — While many details on the Jeju Second Airport Project are provided by both petitions, you may also refer to our latest newsletter for more updates. Gangjeong Village Story: September/ October/ November 2019 Newsletter. Published by Save Jeju Now.