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Korean Catholics welcome rejection of island's airport plan

Environment ministry has repeatedly rejected a plan to have a second airport on ecologically sensitive Jeju island

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 11, 2021 07:27 AM GMT

Updated: August 11, 2021 09:29 AM GMT

Korean Catholics welcome rejection of island's airport plan

A woman and child walk on Woljeongri Beach on Jeju island in South Korea. (Photo: AFP)

The Church in South Korea has welcomed the environment ministry’s decision to once again reject plans for a second airport on the ecologically sensitive Jeju island.

The draft of the proposed airport’s strategic environmental impact assessment was submitted in June 2019 and supplemented three times. Each time the assessment was deemed incomplete and unsatisfactory.

The island already houses one of the busiest airports in the world used by an average of 26 million people annually.

Catholic officials said the second airport was unnecessary and would endanger the environment and wildlife while also adversely affecting poor islanders.

In a notice on July 23, the environment ministry directed that all kinds of promotion processes and activities of the airport should be halted as it has rejected the strategic environmental impact assessment for the second airport, media reports said.

The ministry made the decision after receiving and reviewing opinions from five specialized institutions suggesting important environmental matters necessary for consultation were omitted. It further noted that the plans for the protection of a bird habitat near the site and aircraft noise impacts were inadequate and erroneous.

Let us all strive for ecological repentance today when the earth is crying due to unprecedented heatwaves, floods, droughts and typhoons

There has been strong opposition to the second airport from the islanders and environmental groups as well as the Catholic Church.

On July 23, Father Kang Seung-soo, chairman of the ecological and environment committee in Daejeon Diocese, celebrated a Mass with dozens of faithful at the Sejong government complex to express solidarity with the decision, reported the Catholic Times of Korea.

It was the 32nd Mass for the cause of halting the second airport plan.

“Jeju governor Won Hee-ryong announced that he would promote the second airport without wavering,” Father Kang said in his homily.

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“I hope and dream of a world where all living things live in harmony. Let us all strive for ecological repentance today when the earth is crying due to unprecedented heatwaves, floods, droughts and typhoons.”

Cheju Diocese, which covers Jeju Island, has also issued a statement strongly opposing the new airport plan.

“It is very sad to pursue only money and to misinterpret that only money will bring happiness. This is unacceptable,” the statement said.

Public opinion polls have also shown most islanders disapprove of a second airport at Jeju.

Jeju is the largest island in South Korea and is famed for its natural beauty

Citing a Gallup Korea poll, the Korea Herald newspaper reported in February that 47 percent of those surveyed said they were opposed to the airport, while 44.1 percent were in favor.

Jeju is the largest island in South Korea and is famed for its natural beauty, making it a prime destination for local and foreign tourists. The island is a part of the autonomous Jeju province and features several natural sites recognized as world heritage sites by UNESCO.

Officials say the single airport in Jeju city was built in 1968 and is unable to meet the overwhelming demand as its single runway is often congested due to an average of 500 flights a day, causing delays at peak times and busy seasons.

According to 2020 government data, Jeju has about 695,500 residents including more than 75,000 Catholics.

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