The Saemangeum Bay Development Project

One of my friends and my bandmate wrote a song about this recently. According to him, a wetland used by birds migrating from Russia to Australia is facing “development” on the order of being paved with concrete so that “love-hotels” (that is, by-the-hour sex hotels, not uncommon here as an escape from repressive home life) can be constructed.

I’m collecting articles for students to debate about it with some information at their fingertips. It’s probablt the first big environmentalist issue I’ve heard about since coming here, except for the silly culinary preference for female crabs which is destroying the crab population in the Korean region…

Anyway, you can see an article here and a protestor’s info-site here… the latter being somewhat convincing from many perspectives, in my opinion. There’s also an international protest page here with a form letter to President Roh, too.

3 thoughts on “The Saemangeum Bay Development Project

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. It is so disheartening that despite the outcry and the protests, it has gone ahead. For me there is a second issue more serious than the land reclamation itself.
    What is the future for Korea when its youth has only this result to go by? Those who are concerned for the environment have protested. The result : zero, they went ahead and carried out the project anyway. The message? Protest is futile, why bother, those in the money will win, forget it, go home. Take a degree in engineering while you’re at it so you can join in the development and make some bucks.
    For me, as a kid when I didn’t even know the word environmentalist, there was the Franklin Dam project planned for Tasmania’s Franklin River. My impressionable brain caught this much: protest and someone will hear you, present a reasonable argument, make some noise, someone will listen.
    “Stop the Franklin Dam” stickers and posters were about, much like the stop the Saemangeum Reclamation posters I have seen here. The dam did NOT go ahead. I learned that people have a voice.
    The message people will receive here may be quite different.

    What a shame, huh?

  2. Yes, it is sad. Of course, I think one major poroblem is that this issue is something I’m only hearing about now, after more than 70% (some students claimed up to 80%) of the work has been completed. Sure, I can make arguments about how it’s never too late… if you were engaged to someone for years, and the day before the wedding you discovered that person in bed with someone else, snorting cocaine with a dartboard with your face on it on the wall, darts everywhere, would you go ahead and get married anyway because it’s too late to change your mind? Or too costly?

    But the sad thing is that the pragmatism is mixed with all kinds of other things: resentful regionalism, pipe dreams about how the “development” will definitely bring wealth, claims about how it will be used to raise rice “for after reunification”. Only one of my students passionately argued that no, it’s not too late; among the rest, even those who thought the project was a bad idea, everyone was swayed by the “it’s too late” argument.

    Of course, I should also say that the protest experiences I’ve had also taught me that people have no real voice, and that protest is a way of working off guilt or anger in a situation where you can’t think of much else to do. As a teenager I joined in protests against the First Gulf War. Did it make a difference? Not one bloody iota, to be honest. We knew that it wouldn’t, going in. What bothered me, though, was how sated people were by this futile action. It reminds me of the armchair (or desktop) activism I’ve seen so many friends gorge themselves on, before relaxing into Liberal Humanist Moral Comfort.

    In Canada, I reasoned that maybe, though, this realization that we don’t really have a voice will sate the less intelligent busybodies while forcing the more clever people — the people who see through the smokescreen — into seeking other ways of fomenting change besides protesting to the government. Hell, the Printing Press came out of nowhere in terms of the weapons and tools of power in Medieval Europe… I think it may just be something similar that acts upon our much-beloved status quo in the future. And I bet it’s people who are dissatisfied by the whole protest thing that fuel and pilot it.

    But maybe that’s just SF ramblings. Who knows?

    In any case, there’s a lot of Confucianism, conservativism, and fear of instability to be overcome before that kind of thing will happen here, but… you never know.

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