GANGJEONG VILLAGE ELDER APPEALS TO POPE
Dear Pope Francis,
I sincerely ask for you to visit Gangjeong village on Jeju Island. I am an old man in my 70s. I was born in Gangjeong and have never left my home village. Our village was established about 450 years ago, and is famous for its beautiful nature and fertile land. But one day, we heard shocking news on TV that our village had been selected as the final location of a naval base. The decision making process was non-democratic. It was decided without proper consultation with Gangjeong villagers. The decision was made in just 13 days.
Gureombi Rock is like a mother's arms to us. It has been over two years that we could not sleep because of the sound of the sacred rock being blasted, destroyed, and the noises of the base construction everyday, night and day. The state is supposed to keep the life and property of the people, but this government has totally devastated this hundred-of-years-old peaceful village. Residents and peace defenders are crying for peace and justice.
Dear Pope Francis! The villagers of Gangjeong do not oppose national security. We oppose the naval base project because we want to preserve our community so that people can live here happily from generation to generation.
There are several reasons why we oppose this naval base project. Not even one hearing about the national project took place. The land was taken away from the residents without agreement. This absurd national project has been implemented violently and non-democratically.
Gangjeong is located at the southern part of Jeju Island and is famous for its high waves and strong tidal current. In 2012, seven caisson structures to be used for building a breakwater of the naval base were destroyed due to typhoon. This is but one example of why Gangjeong is not an appropriate place to build a naval base.
The construction site, Gureombi Rock and Gangjeong's coastal water, are designated an "Absolute Preservation Area" and are home to various endangered species like the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and red-foot crab. Jeju is designated as a Biosphere Reserve, World Natural Heritage Site, and Global Geo Park by UNESCO.
This base will be an outpost of the US military to target China. With the US Pivot to Asia, Korea will be pulled into conflicts between the US and China.
Holy Father, everyday here has been like a war during the past seven years. Help this old man see my village peaceful and beautiful again. Please visit Gangjeong and hold the tired hands of the people longing for justice and a humane society.
By Yoon Sang-Hyo
* You too can send a message to Pope Francis asking him to visit Jeju by going here
Current status of oppression in Gangjeong village
* 202,620 Police officers have been used to suppress the villagers from August 2011 to August 2013
* 649 People have been arrested for non-violent protest against the Navy base since April 2007
* 600 People have been put on trial
* 500 million KRW (won) in fines have been levied against peaceful protesters ($472,590 USD)
* 38 People imprisoned since April 2007