From a Fisherman to a Migrant: The Devastating Impact of Saemangeum Project on Life of a Fisherman

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Soyun KANG, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
Sun-Jin YUN, Seoul National University, South Korea
Since 1991, the coastline of western part of Korean peninsula has been altered by one of Korean national land development projects named Saemangeum Reclamation Development Project. The project consists of mega-sized sea wall construction and land reclamation. It was seriously criticized for a lack of economic feasibility as well as expected devasting environmental and social impacts, however, the construction has been carried out till now.

This study reveals how the project has affected people’s lives, especially those who have lived in the neighboring area to construction site, through the life history research and in-depth intrervies. The life history of a resident of Kyehwa-myeon in Buan-gun, the most affected area by the project, has been explored by a series of in-depth interviews.

Born in the same village where he lives now, a resident used to be a fisherman who had earned bigger money than employees of well-known companies. However, as the project had launched without any community briefing, the destroyed fishing ground forced him to change his occupation from a fisherman to a farmer. In addition, he could not avoid experiencing various conflicts with villagers and government, since he has been strongly against the project. Recently, he plans to move out of his hometown, where he has always been proud of, due to the contaminated environment, decreasing income and broken relationship with villagers.

In short, his life history vividly shows how the development project has devastated one’s life in terms of occupation, human relations, attachment to hometown and trust in government. This study implies large-scale national development projects without participation and agreement of local residents whose life is depend on nature are violence disguised by development and progress.