August 6, 2008

South Korea to Build Solar Power Facility on Disputed Islets

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) - South Korea will build a solar power facility on Dokdo [Liancourt Rocks] by November as plans to make the islets more habitable to visitors are being reviewed, the government said Wednesday.

Construction of a solar power facility should begin in September after detailed environmental impact studies are completed, sources at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea Energy Management Corp. (KEMCO) said.

The sustainable power unit is to be set up on one of the East Sea islets, where a 50-man police detachment is stationed to enforce South Korea's sovereignty over the area. There is also a permanent pier used by a civilian ferry and Coast Guard boats.

In addition to the police force are two South Korean civilians with permanent homes on the islets and two civil servants.

Seoul initially considered building a 60 kilowatt wind power generator alongside the 50 kilowatt solar power facility, but that plan was dropped due to environmental concerns. Since no wind generator will be built the capacity of the solar unit may be increased.

The planned solar energy facility will augment the 1,300 kilowatt diesel-powered generator used by the police on the islet.

"The overall output is not large but it holds symbolic significance," said an official from KEMCO, a state-run corporation tapped to build the solar power unit.

The move comes following Japan's July 14 decision to identify Dokdo [Liancourt Rocks] as "disputed land" in an educational handbook for teachers, implying the islets are part of its territory.

Seoul countered that it would not tolerate any claims on its territory, outlining plans to build up the necessary infrastructure to make the islets more habitable to fisherman and visitors.

The islets, located 216 kilometres from Jukbyeon harbour on the east coast of South Korea and 87 kilometres southeast of South Korea's Ulleung Island, are classified as a natural preserve which limits building of any facilities.

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 0517 6 Aug 08.

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