New naval base opens on southern resort island of Jeju

South Korea will officially launch the Navy's new base on the southern resort island of Jeju this week, wrapping up the landmark naval project which took the country 23 years and more than 1 trillion won (US$806 billion) to accomplish, the Navy said Thursday.

The naval base, billed by the Navy as Jeju's private-military sea port, is capable of docking 20 combat vessels and two cruise ships of the largest class simultaneously.

Set up along the southern coast of Jeju, the foot of South Korea, the base will host some 3,000 warships, submarines and other naval forces to defend the Northeast Asian country's gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

The base also allows South Korea to station military forces at the critical maritime location where North Korea should pass through in order to sail out to sea, according to the Navy.

The Navy plans to host a grand opening ceremony on Friday, with a celebratory flight demonstration of seven Navy aircraft and a parade of high-tech warships including the Aegis combat system-powered destroyer Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong.

The government first launched the Jeju base construction project in 1993 as part of efforts to consolidate South Korea's maritime sovereignty and finally broke ground six years ago.

The construction work had once been put on hold as residents of a nearby village staged intense protests in alliance with environmentalist and religious activists, before the Supreme Court approved the project as legal in July 2012.

The base encompasses about 490,000 square meters of coastal and reclaimed land, with some 1.08 trillion won of taxpayers' money invested. Its piers run a total of 2,400 meters in length.

The cruise dock will open in the second half of 2017 and it is "expected to grow into a world cruise tourism hub," the Navy said, adding that some 1 million tourists may visit the port annually in 2020.