South Korea plans to hold a series of meetings to try to verify the computer simulation results for a proposed naval base at the center of a dispute, officials said Friday.
The announcement came alongside vocal public opposition against a central government project to build the naval base on the country's southern resort island of Jeju by 2015, one year behind its original schedule.
The planned meetings between officials of the central government and the Jeju local government are aimed at clearing doubts of whether the planned base will be able to accommodate not only about 20 naval vessels but also two 150,000-ton civilian cruisers at the same time.
The project has been one of the most contentious issues in South Korea recently as opposition parties, environmental groups and other activists staged strong protests against it, claiming the base will raise regional security tensions and hurt the environment.
Construction began last year in Gangjeong Village on the southern tip of the resort island after years of delay, and is now about 17 percent complete, with the government planning to complete the project by 2015.
Next week, a group of experts and officials will meet at a state-funded ocean research institute in the central city of Daejeon to verify the results of the computer simulation commissioned by the Navy. Two other meetings are scheduled to be held on May 30 and April 6.
Lee Yun-sok, a professor at the Korea Maritime University who headed up the simulation team between December and February, said the computer simulation showed two 150,000-ton cruisers can come alongside the pier at the same time.
He said he will explain the technical data to the group of experts and officials during the upcoming meetings.
Jeju hopes two 150,000-ton cruisers will be able to moor at the pier at the same time, according to Kim Yun-ho, a Jeju provincial official, in an apparent move to boost tourism.
Kang Dong-kyun, the head of the Gangjeong village, home of the envisioned naval base, said he is opposed to the project, citing potential environmental
damage to the site designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
He also claimed the project has destroyed the rural community with a population of more than 1,900 and that the proposed location is not suitable for the naval base.
Jeju, a special self-governing province with autonomous rights in such fields as administration, taxation, finance and business, is South Korea's most popular tourist destination.
It is about 100 kilometers from the mainland and about an hour-long flight from Seoul. (Yonhap)