S Korea activists gather in protest at Jeju naval base
Civic group activists have gathered in force in southern Jeju on Saturday to hold a "peace event" that aims to halt construction of a naval base being built on the island, Yonhap reported.
Around 300 activists and opposition party members flew into Jeju earlier in the day to join people already there that have called for the nullification of a plan to build a naval base. The event that includes a concert and various cultural activities takes place a day after riot police dispersed people in Gangjeong Village who were trying to prevent construction work from moving forward by taking part in sit-ins.
In the clash that took place Friday, a total of 38 people were arrested for failing to follow instructions to disperse.
Protesters claimed that building the base will allow U.S. forces to come to the island, which could ignite conflict with China.
After the police dispersed the crowd, engineers moved to finish building a perimeter fence surrounding the construction site to prevent people from disrupting the work. A fence had been built but not all areas were enclosed.
Law enforcement authorities cracked down on the protesters after the Jeju District Court approved an injunction sought by the local government and the Navy to disperse them.
Related to the move to hold a concert, Jeju police said it has dispatched 230 police officers to Gangjeong to support the 606 riot police already stationed in the village to maintain order.
"The extra manpower is being sent to deal with any unforeseen developments that may occur as a large number of protesters gather near the construction site," a spokesperson said. He added that more officers may be used depending on the situation.
South Korea started construction of the naval base near the village on the resort island's southern coast facing the South China Sea in January, saying the facility is necessary to strengthen national security by increasing military mobility in the southern maritime territory.
Once completed in 2014, the new base will be able to accommodate around 20 naval vessels. At present, only about 14 percent of the construction work has been completed.