South Korea Completely Subordinated to U.S.
Our Veterans For Peace (VFP) delegation had a busy day in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea yesterday as we helped block the Navy base gate for a couple hours throughout the day and had two briefings from activist and village leaders.
In the photo above our delegation (minus Col. Ann Wright who arrives today) is joined by Brother Song (front row left) and village international team members Sung-Hee Cho and MiYoung (center).
Brother Song is a leader of the international peace group called The Frontiers and has been working in the village for several years. When the sacred Gureombi rocky coastline was first closed off to the villagers by the Navy and Samsung (the lead base construction contractor), Br. Song would swim each day and attempt to enter Gureombi. He was often stopped and beaten by South Korean Coast Guard divers while he was in the water.
Br. Song thanked VFP for sending our solidarity delegation and said, "This is a crucial time to visit us. Your visit could give us some encouragement and hope to keep fighting as we enter the second round."
Br. Song went on to detail the struggle ahead as there are signs that the "peace island", as it has been officially named by the Seoul government, will be even further militarized in the years ahead. He showed us a spot on the map of the island where activists believe it is likely that an air base will next be built. The announced 'pivot' of 60% of Pentagon forces into the Asia-Pacific necessitates more airfields and ports-of-call for US warplanes and warships. He also pointed out another place on Jeju Island where an artillery unit will soon be added - not aimed at North Korea but due to the location of Jeju the target will clearly be China.
|Brother Song from the activist group The Frontiers now working to demilitarize Jeju Island|
Br. Song outlined a plan underway to link up demilitarization movements on Jeju with those in Okinawa and Taiwan thus creating a unified campaign for a demilitarized zone in this part of the Pacific. The long-term goal is to 'Sail for Peace' between the various islands to spread word about an alternative non-violent vision for the region. Song expressed much interest in working with VFP which has recently restored its own peace sail boat called the 'Golden Rule'.
Later in the evening we had a briefing from Gangjeong village Vice-Mayor Mr. Go who did a quick welcome and then suggested he just take questions from our delegation. One of the first questions was about Samsung requesting that the right-wing government in Seoul fine the village $20 million in penalties for "obstruction of business" due to the eight-year campaign to oppose the Navy base. He reported that lawyers have said that the village might have a chance to beat this absurd and cruel move by Samsung but the track record of South Korean courts on the Jeju Navy base issue has not been kind to Gangjeong village.
As the completion of the Navy base nears (the Navy had hoped to have the official opening of the base in early December) Mr. Go stated, "We are just trying to enjoy every moment of the protests and will take the next steps when we come to that moment". Mr. Go said that the South Korean military and government is "completely subordinated to the US."
|Gangjeong village Vice-Mayor Mr. Go|
He said that their biggest concern at this time is the environmental degradation that has already come from the construction of the base on sacred Gureombi rock and the dredging of the offshore area near UNESCO recognized endangered soft coral forests. Mr. Go said that squid eggs just offshore are now diminishing and that fishing has already been reduced by one-third from past years.
Today we will take a tour of the east and west sides of the Navy base construction area.
Photos by Ellen Davidson.