|Gangjeong village Mayor Kang on Jeju Island|
Where the Winds Blow
The weather is
changing. In March, Gangjeong fishing boats used to go out for 20
But last year
they went out for four;
not at all.
The winds were
blowing too hard.
part of Jeju, the area chosen by the navy for its base, is the area of the
island most severely impacted by typhoons. Though many fishing villages on Jeju
Island were built close to the sea, the villagers of Gangjeong built their
village further inland, knowing the power of its stormy
In August, a
typhoon blew away the plastic tarpaulin and damaged the frame arching over my
host’s house. But “I was so happy!” she says, gesturing the way the
season’s typhoons also upturned and damaged seven caissons at the base
construction site. (They weigh 8,800 tons.) Many tetrapods were also
Two days after
the storm, members of the community came to fix her roof. With ten people atop
her house, she feared the roof would collapse with their weight or that their
cigarettes would burn a hole in the new plastic, but all ended
Now she hopes
for another big storm.
DG displays her
dolls on a low table across from the gates.
One by one, she
places them against small cement blocks, propping up their
represents an activist who has joined the struggle against the naval
I push back one
doll’s yarn hair to get a clearer photo of his face.
When I earlier
saw photos of these dolls,
S. pointed out
one with a wide-brimmed straw hat.
Can you believe
that’s me? she asked, smiling.
Guards haul away
the huge sheets of plastic,
the logs and
barrel stove, all blocking the upper gate.
One guard begins
to hose down the pavement, clearing away the wood chips
and bark left
I stand in
place, a bit to the side, with my sign.
I wonder if
he’ll spray me with the hose, perhaps my feet.
Instead he just
scowls at me, saying words I don’t understand,
then turns off
the police officer whistles another line of cement trucks into the
rumble uphill towards the upper gate
as we descend to
the gate from higher up the hill.
JD reaches the
gate before the trucks and stands in front of the entrance.
She yells at the guards.
The guards growl
What seemed an
easy entry for the trucks is now delayed.
No trucks pass
through the gates.
Small birds sing
from the trees whose limbs stretch over the activist tents.
One door to the
lower gate is open.
I watch a
private security guard play with a dog on a long tether
just inside the
Later, he takes
the dog for a short stretch along the Gangjeong Cheon,
beside the construction site.
Across the road
sits a two-entrance dog house for a mother and puppy.
A blue peace
sign, a yellow flower, and the cartoon-like image of a dog’s head are painted on
base is in yellow across the roof.
The peace dogs
are away for the morning.
after the activists have rebuilt the blockade,
and arranged the
chair backs to read Save Gangjeong Village,
security guards begin again to throw the firewood as far as they can away from
lays his body over some of the logs, preventing their
When a guard
lifts a wooden stool,
gets up from the log pile and grabs the other side of the
exchanges yells with one of the guards
while a third
begins tossing the wood back in front of the gate.
When I join her,
one of the guards smiles at me
and gestures for
me to put the logs back down below.
My eyes smile
back, then I walk the wood in front of the gate.
continues, guards throwing the wood back over our heads.
builds, then subsides.
The guards stop
We sit in quiet
around the stove.
Rough notes of
the mayor’s words:
It’s been a long
time since this room has been filled. There’s a slogan: five years and eight
months, but we will fight for more than 58 years. We have made an effort despite
the result of the election and the National Assembly (budget) vote. History will
remember us. . . .
We have fought
to oppose the naval base. And in the court, I told the judge I think society
should be where common sense is shared by the people. We live in a society in
which common sense is not accepted. . . .
days, we have to stop construction. The only way to do this is for us to
continue fighting. . . .
To honor our
descendants, we cannot stop our fighting.