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....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BECOMING A PAIN IN THE ASS



Gangjeong villagers were angered by the remarks of Cho Hyun-oh, chief of the National Police Agency, who visited Seogwipo and called for tighter control against "interference of business" and emphasized stronger law enforcement against opponents of Navy base construction. So they took their protest to the police HQ building.


Gangjeong villagers have become a pain in the ass. They are a pain to the Navy, to the police, to the governor of Jeju Island, and to their President Lee. Becoming a pain is how you win struggles like this.

The people of Vieques, Puerto Rico became a pain in the ass to the U.S. Navy in their long-time fight to close a bombing range on their island home. They finally succeeded after they occupied the range, got pushed off and then returned over and over again. They faced arrests and pressed on. They brought people from around the world to visit Vieques which helped make their cause an international concern.

My friends in Perry, Florida were facing the U.S. Air Force creating a bombing range in their rural community and asked me to come speak some years ago. I told them they had to become a pain in the ass if they hoped to win. They took the advice and won their fight by creating lots of non-violent turmoil in their community.

Signs are starting to appear that the Gangjeong strategy of being a royal pain in the ass is working. A mainstream newspaper in South Korea, The Kyunghyang Shinmun, has just written an editorial calling for cancellation of the base. Here is a bit of that piece:

Opinion calling for the construction to be suspended is growing, but the authorities are pushing the construction even harder by doing things like arresting villagers, and in turn are coming under fire for growing tensions.

There are so many reasons why the naval base construction on Jeju-do should be suspended. The construction of the base was initially pushed in accordance with the strategy of creating a "Navy of the Ocean."

This was a call to contain China and Japan by sending warships into more distant seas rather than just the coastal waters at a time when the naval competition in Northeast Asia is intensifying.

This was accompanied by arguments that a forward base was needed to secure stable shipping lanes and protect and develop maritime resources.

At a cost of 958.7 billion won, the South Korean Navy plans to build by 2014 a civilian-military port complex that could simultaneously dock about 20 warships, including Aegis warships, and two 150,000- ton cruise ships.

The base construction plan was full of holes from the very beginning, however. The village chief at the time of the selection lost a no-confidence vote when it was revealed he manufactured village opinion on the matter.

When it was revealed that the area where the base was to go was a preservation area in which construction would be impossible, the GNP-led provincial legislature rammed through a motion to strip it of its protected status. It also ignored that the area was a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve.

Recently, moreover, there has been a major change in the situation for which this project must be suspended. Since the sinking of the Cheonan, the government has abandoned its "Navy of the Ocean" strategy, placing instead priority on responding to North Korean strength.

In May, a military reform bill that virtually abandoned the Navy of the Ocean strategy was passed by the Cabinet. Accordingly, it is natural that the base construction project be reconsidered from the very beginning.

It also must be seriously considered that if the US navy uses the base in accordance with the Korea-US Mutual Defense Pact, it could provoke China, as pointed out last week by progressive US intellectuals like Noam Chomsky.

The construction of the Jeju-do naval base must be suspended immediately. Even if we accept the claim that there is a need for the base for security reasons, we should reconsider the project after suspending the construction.

As construction is less than 5% complete, it would be no great loss even if construction were stopped. The construction of the base is a grave matter directly tied with national security. It is not something to be pushed by a single province and the Navy alone.

The government must now step forward and resolve these long-pending tensions, not ignore them as something taking place in a small corner of the country. (Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News. July 18, 2011)


Couple this with growing international support for the villagers and you have the stars aligning for the eventual defeat of this Navy base plan. With the U.S. Navy pushing the South Korean government behind the scenes to build the base it will be hard to stop but this editorial indicates a growing weariness with the controversy.

My advice to the Gangjeong villagers is to stay at it. It's called stick-to-it-ivness. Keep the pressure on and keep reaching out to folks around the world for their support. It's a strategy that has worked before and can work again.

You can sign the petition to Save Jeju Island here

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