Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

My Photo
Name:
Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, July 02, 2010

OP-ED IN LOCAL PAPER TODAY

Gangjeong villagers trying to protect the water, the fish, the coral, the rocks, and their farmlands
As you see the Gangjeong coast today
The so-called "vision" for the Gangjeong village





Times Record Opinion Page (Brunswick, Maine)
By Bruce K. Gagnon
Friday, July 2, 2010

I have recently returned from a weeklong trip to South Korea, where I visited several communities that are experiencing major expansion of U.S. military bases. Several farming and fishing villages, each more than 400 years old, are either being completely destroyed or severely impacted as their lands are taken for the enlargement of U.S. bases.

The Washington Post reported several years ago that the U.S. would be doubling its military presence in the Asian-Pacific region in order to “manage” China. Thus we now see U.S. base expansion on Guam, Okinawa and in South Korea.

One such case is the small Gangjeong fishing village on Jeju Island in South Korea. The South Korean Navy is ostensibly building this base, but when members of our organization called the South Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., to support the opposition to the base by local residents they were told, “Don’t call us, call your own [U.S.] government. They are pushing us to build this base.”

The U.S. wants to deploy Aegis destroyers, built here at Bath Iron Works, at the base on Jeju Island largely because of its strategic proximity to China. China imports 80 percent of its oil on ships and a Navy base on Jeju would help give the U.S. ability to “control” this vital shipping lane in the Yellow Sea. While the declining U.S. economy can’t compete with China anymore, the Pentagon is embarking on a strategy that says if we can control access to declining supplies of oil then we will still hold the keys to the global economic engine.

A very provocative strategy indeed.

Gangjeong village is famous for growing tangerines and for its fishing and soft coral reefs. UNESCO has named the sea coast there as one of the world’s environmental jewels. The building of a Navy base in Gangjeong, to serve as a port for the growing U.S. Aegis destroyer fleet, will require dredging of the sea bed and destruction of the coral.

Gangjeong’s rocky coast reminds me much of Pemaquid Point here in Maine. The Navy plans to completely cover the rocks, now full of aquatic life, with cement in order to build docks for the ships.

The village of 2,000 people held a referendum where 94 percent of the residents voted against the Navy base. Sadly, though, the right-wing South Korean government is moving forward with plans for the Navy base construction, carrying out the will of the U.S. Navy. Already more than 50 of the residents have been arrested for their nonviolent sit-ins as they attempted to block construction equipment from beginning work.

Next month Gangjeong residents will do their third weeklong pilgrimage around the entire Jeju Island in order to plead with their government to cancel plans for the Navy base. They are doing all they can to protect their fishing and farming culture. They talk about the need for someone to fight for the water, the coral, the fish, and their lands.

The Maine Veterans for Peace recently held another protest at the latest “christening” of an Aegis destroyer at BIW. Few in our state think about where these ships go once they leave Maine’s waters.

But I have now seen one community in South Korea that does not want these ships to come there. Gangjeong’s mayor told our visiting international delegation that “Jeju Island is at a crossroads — either eco-friendly or militarized.” When he said that, I wondered how Mainers would feel if the Navy wanted to pour concrete on the rocks at Pemaquid Point? I bet Mainers would fight to the bitter end.

That is what the villagers in Gangjeong intend to do.

Bruce K. Gagnon is the coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. He lives in Bath.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Gagnon,

I saw your Times Record piece, and I'm curious about two specific things:

1) How come there is no mention of U.S. involvement in the base from any reputable news organization? The South Korean papers are actually quite specific about exactly how the base will be used, to the point of listing which Korean-built ROK Navy ships will be based in Jeju. There are plenty of references to the U.S. Navy using it for port calls, but nobody reliable says anything about permanently stationing U.S. vessels or personnel at the base.

2) Why would the United States need a Navy base in Gangjeong when they already have one in Sasebo, Japan, fewer than 200 sailing miles away? A Navy warship can get from Sasebo to Gangjeong in a matter of hours. What rationale would there be for the added expense of a base for such a marginal, almost negligible benefit?

7/3/10, 3:17 PM  
Blogger Bruce Gagnon said...

Very good questions, you might pose them to the South Korean embassy in Washington DC who told several of our members that the U.S. was pushing them to build the base.

I really can't speak for the U.S. Navy but I would venture a guess that the U.S. is building so many of these Aegis ships they need to find places to put them all......among other things.

7/3/10, 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bruce Gagnon said...

One other thing...the South Korea Navy has recently sent one of their Aegis destroyer, outfitted with missile offense systems on-board, to Hawaii for joint training missions with the U.S. navy.....the South Korean ships are essentially being integrated under U.S. command-control so any South Korean Navy base I believe will ultimately be controlled by the U.S. military. That's the way the U.S. does things with its "junior" partners.

The South Korean people, and the villagers of Gangjeong, understand this clearly.

7/3/10, 3:43 PM  
Blogger Bruce Gagnon said...

And one question for you Anonymous....please give me an example of a "reputable news organization" in the U.S. that is not in the pocket of corporate globalization and the military strategy it uses to enforce its will around the world.

7/3/10, 3:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home