Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A naval base in Cheju-do by 2014

Despite opposition, the South Korean government is going ahead with a planned ROK naval base on the resort island of Cheju-do (below). While I wish they would keep Cheju-do (aka Jeju or Jejudo) as pristine as possible, I can see here at Oahu that it is possible to have a balance between urban development, natural environments, tourism, and military facilities.

Oahu is one-sixth smaller than Cheju-do but with 50% more people. Geographically, thre are considerable similarities, with the interior being less accessible due to higher terrain. (Cheju-do is often billed as "Korea's Hawaii," which I used to snicker at, but having lived here for three years, I would have to say that in terms of what to see and the quality of life, Korea's southernmost province is quite similar to Oahu; not necessarily the rest of Hawaii, but Oahu.)

Anyway, this naval base is facing opposition, by the same chinbo "progressives" who oppose US bases on the Korean mainland. Such opposition is much less common in Hawaii, but it is par for the course in Okinawa and in America's own territory of Guam. In Hawaii, while most recognize that the US military is an economic boon to the state, there is a sense that the military people are different, often seen as less desirable outsiders. Indeed, the tension and even animosity is palpable sometimes, particularly in Waikiki and other places where US military personnel may go but where they are clearly seen as non-locals.

Back to the Cheju-do base. This large-scale facility, which could welcome even US aircraft carriers, will help South Korea project its own navy and air force to the pirate-infest waters of the Malacca Strait (joining our Japanese neighbors, who will be authorized to go anywhere in the world as long as its to battle pirates), allowing South Korea to pull more of its own weight in the ROK-US alliance, which I think is a good thing.

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