by John Choi, Seoul
Updated: February 05, 2013 10:01 PM GMT
A Japanese delegation, including seven Catholic bishops, has wrapped up a four-day trip to Korea by visiting the controversial site of the Jeju naval base.
The aim of the January 29 to February 1 visit was to show solidarity with protesters campaigning against its construction.
The delegation from the Japanese bishops' Episcopal Commission on Social Issues was led by its chairman, Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki.
During their visit they joined a daily Mass outside the construction site at Gangjeong led by Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju.
Campaigners including Father Bartholomew Mun Jung-hyun, Jesuit Fr Joseph Kim Jeong-uk and several Cheju diocesan priests hold daily Masses at the site as part of efforts to get construction halted.
The base is to become home to a new fleet of 20 warships when completed.
Protesters say the base should not be built on Jeju, which is a World Heritage site, but the government says the base is urgently needed for national security reasons.
“We came to show solidarity with the people protesting here and to pray for peace in the world, especially in East Asia,” Archbishop Takami told ucanews.com.
“The situation at Jeju is very similar to that of Okinawa," Archbishop Takami said, referring to a proposed US base there that has sparked widespread protests.
Father John Ko Byeong-soo, pastoral director of Cheju diocese, thanked the Japanese delegation for their support.
Their presence “has given a big boost to the people of Gangjeong village,” he said.