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Cheju / Jeju Naval Base

The South Korean government announced plans to build a naval base at Gangjeong ["river pavillion"] Village on Jeju island in 2002. ("Cheju" means place over there, and "do" means island.) Construction began in 2009, but by mid-2011 little work had been completed. The base will be able to accommodate 20 warships and two 150,000-ton cruise liners. By 2014 the base is to serve as a new tourism attraction on Jeju, as well as a forward-deployed base for a strategic mobile fleet of two Aegis destroyer-led squadrons. The mobile squadrons consist of 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers, 7,600-ton Aegis-equipped KDX-III destroyers, Type-214 1,800-ton submarines, anti-submarine Lynx helicopters and frigates.

"Jeju has long been considered a tactical, strategic point to secure southern sea lanes for transporting energy supplies and to conduct mobile operations in the case of an emergency in the region," a Navy spokesman said. "Following the construction, the Navy will be able to successfully conduct long-range operations to protect our commercial vessels in blue waters, including the Malacca Strait, as well as carry out full-scale operations around the Korean Peninsula."

In 2005 the Korean government designated Jeju as an “Island of Peace” to boost tourism and heal the wounds from the April 3 Incident of 1948. Activists opposed to the plan, which they argued would cause environmental hazards and harm the image of the "peace island." They also raised suspicions that the project was related to Korea joining in the US-led missile defense system. In August 2009 Jeju Governor Kim Tae-hwan survived a recall vote over his plan to allow the base. The National Election Commission declared the vote invalid, since voter turnout was only 11.1 percent, short of the 33.3 percent required.

Cheju Do (Jeju Do) (33°25'N., 126°30'E.), a large and rugged island, lies about 45 miles S of the S tip of the Korean peninsula. The volcanic island has few indentations, and no secure anchorages for large vessels. Halla San, the highest point on the island rises to an elevation of 1950m, has two peaks, the W of which is a precipitous wall of rock, and the E is slightly sloping. The lower slopes of the mountain are wooded. From NE of Haryur Ag, about 12 miles NE of Halla San, is the N of two sharp peaks, about 1 mile apart, which are useful to vessels approaching from this direction. Also very conspicuous from this same direction is a thickly-wooded sharppeaked mountain about 3 miles NW of Halla San. The most conspicuous feature on the SW coast of the island is Sanbang San. This dome-shaped mountain rises precipitously from the coast about 13 miles SW of Halla San.

Hwasun Hang (33°14'N., 126°28'E.) is a fishing harbor protected by two breakwaters. The L-shaped S breakwater is 230m long, and extends S then W from the coast. The N breakwater has a landing quay for small craft and extends 250m WSW. Hyeongjedo Moyji (33°13'N., 126°20'E.) is the roadstead SW of Hwasun and partially protected from the S by Hyeong Do (33°12'N., 126°19'E.), a small island, 25m high, lies 1.3 miles NE of Bunam Gag. A detached rock, 47m high, lies close S of Hyeongje Do. Foul ground lies between Hyeonggi Do and the coast NW. The best anchorage may be obtained, in a depth of 22m, sand bottom, about 1 mile offshore and midway between Hwasun Hang and Hyeongjedo. This anchorage is exposed to S and E winds which quickly raise a heavy sea. Good marks in addition to Sanbang San include Gun San, about 5 miles NE of Bunam Got, and which may be identified by two large rocks on summit. A pier extends 183m W from a point 2 miles NE of Hyeongjedo. Hyeongjedo lies about 1.3 miles NE of the SE extremity of Bunam Got. Foul ground extends about 183m E from this islet, and there is a rock 45m high, close S of the islet; between the N extremity of the islet and the mainland NNW, there are reefs and shallow water.

The island is 73km wide and 41km long with a total area of 1,848 km. Jeju the largest island in South Korea, came into existence 700 to 1,200 thousand years ago when lava spewed from a sub-sea volcano and surfaced above the waters. Then 100 to 300 thousand years ago, another volcanic eruption formed Mt. Halla. The final volcanic eruption that took place approximately 25 thousand years ago created the crater lake, Baekrok-dam, at the summit of the mountain. Mt. Halla rises in the center of Jeju to 1950m above sea level. The rest of the island slopes down from its summit and is covered with dark gray volcanic rocks and volcanic ash soil.

Cheju is South Korea's top honeymoon destination, with mild weather, delicious seafood and gorgeous beaches. Called the Emerald Isle of Asia, Newsweek magazine once nicknamed Cheju-do the "Island of the Gods" and raved about its people and culture. The Asian Wall Street Journal called Cheju the "Bali of North Asia." Jeju Island is famous for its panoramic views that brilliantly showcase the beauty of nature throughout each of the four seasons. The island was designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage on 27 June 2007 for its scenic and scientific value. Jeju’s natural environment has been preserved as best as possible. The fantastically shaped rocks decorating the seashores, the hundreds of Oreums(secondary volcanos) and the rarest species of flora around the Baekrok-dam lake are all treasures waiting to be discovered by visitors.Relatively isolated from the rest of the world, the island’s nature has been well preserved in its prehistoric state. That is why traveling to Jeju is to travel back in time.

Cheju is exotic. Of all the countries on the continent of Asia, Korea is the most culturally and ethnically homogeneous. Education was able to pervade the nation easily without the road blocks of separate languages or significantly different dialects. Cheju Island is something of an exception. The Jeju dialect is not just old style words but the unique language of the Jeju people. Jeju dialect spoken on Jeju Island is known for being almost incomprehensible to speakers of standard Korean. Jeju dialect is a critically endangered language spoken by no more than 10,000 people on Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea. Its intergenerational transmission has been disrupted, as it is spoken fluently today only by people who are more than 70 years old. In December 2010 Jeju dialect was included in UNESCO’s new enhanced online Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

Cheju is distinctly different from mainstream Korea. The island's shamanist roots are still very evident. Cheju Island, Korea's historic island of exile, with a harsh natural environment, early developed a negative image as human habitat. Cheju was occupied by Korea in 938 and annexed in 1105. Throughout the long years of the tributary period, even after the integration, Cheju people were exploited and discriminated against. The island was ruled by the Mongols between 1273 to 1374. During the subsequent 500-year Joseon dynastic reign, Jeju was a site of exile for political criminals.

Referred to locally as "Sa-sam," literally "4-3," April 3rd is the anniversary of a violent incident on Jeju that sparked a six-year period of anti-communist conflict throughout South Korea. The South Korean Labor Party [SKLP, also known as the Workers Party of South Korea] was founded on 23 November 1946 with the merger of the Communist Party of South Korea, New People's Party of South Korea and a faction of the People's Party of Korea. The party was opposed to the formation of a South Korean state. The main communist party in South Korea from 1946 to 1949, it was attracted a considerable following, with over 300,000 members by one estimate. By late 1947, an estimated 80 percent of Cheju islanders were SKLP members or loyalists. Led by Pak Hon-yong, after the party was outlawed by US occupation authorities, it organized a network of clandestine cells which initiated armed guerrilla struggle in 1947. As persecution of party members intensified, many of the party leadership moved to Norther Korea, and on 30 June 1949 the party merged with the Workers Party of North Korea, forming the Korean Workers Party, led by Kim Il-sung.

The most significant guerrilla activity started on Cheju Island and later spread to the mainland. The local leaders on Cheju supported the establishment of People’s Committees in the villages. However, Syngman Rhee, who had consolidated political power over South Korea, appointed Yu Hae-jin, an extreme right winger from the mainland, to rule the island. Yu filled the police force on Cheju with ultraright wing extremists and brutally suppressed political opposition.

On 01 March 1947 police on Jeju island fired on a demonstration demand reunification. A cycle of terror and counterterror developed, which soon turned into an armed uprising on Jeju island. In February 1948 the Party instigated general strikes in opposition to the plans to create a separate South Korean state. On 03 April 1948, rebels attacked police stations and government offices, killing an estimated 50 police. By October 1948, the rebel army consisted of approximately 4,000 combatants. According to Republic of Korea authorities, by the end of 1948 they had fought over 100 battles against the rebels, killing 422 and holding another 6,000 in custody. Figures for 1949 include the destruction of 20,000 homes and between 20,000 and 30,000 deaths. By various estimates, between 14,000 and 60,000 individuals were killed in fighting or by execution. The rebellion lasted until May 1949, and isolated pockets of fighting continued into 1954.

Literally tens of thousands of prisoners in UN custody did desire repatriation to North Korea or Communist China, chief among them the impressed South Korean anti-communists and former Nationalist Chinese soldiers. Communist prisoners took charge of their compounds and began to plan for a coup that would focus the eyes of the world upon the whole prisoner of war problem. On 01 October 1952, the Communist Chinese regime’s anniversary, at a Chinese Army EPW camp on Cheju island, American soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment and an MP service company used rifle fire to restore order, killing 56 prisoners and wounding 91 others. A subsequent investigation concluded that this use of maximum force was appropriate given the situation and the terrain.

In April 2006, President Roh Moo-Hyun apologized to the people of Jeju Province for the massacre. In March 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that "At least 20,000 people jailed for taking part in the popular uprisings in Jeju, Yeosu and Suncheon, or accused of being communists, were massacred in some 20 prisons across the country" when the Korean War broke out. South Korea's Truth Commission reported 14,373 victims, 86% at the hands of the security forces and 13.9% at the hands of armed rebels, and estimated that the total death toll was as high as 30,000, about 10 percent of Jeju's population at that time.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:43:01 ZULU