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Jeju island sits off the south west coast of Korea, the two-million year old consequence of volcanic eruptions.  I visited there 2 years and some ago, in winter.   Compared to the rest of South Korea, it has been largely spared the rapid over-development of the last 25-30 years.  Still dominantly rural and agricultural, it is a kind of oasis for Koreans, whose peninsula has been subject to a very swift industrialization, both urban and agricultural.  For my tastes Jeju now is a bit too Disneyfied, with resorts and golf courses, but next to the rest of South Korea it remains bucolic.

In what seems typical of America these decades, the US Navy wishes to build a base in this setting, and doubtless in a manner crude and bullying, convinced the Korean government to accede to this request.   Samsung, Korea’s biggest corporation, and thought to be essentially more powerful than the government itself, obtained the construction deal for this.  The  village where the base is planned to be built resisted, along with the rest of Jeju’s population, saying they did not want the despoilation implicit in such a construction.  American forces in South Korea have already toxically poisoned many of the bases already present, and this history doesn’t suggest they’d do anything else in Jeju.

Jeju Island naval base tensions escalate with arrival of riot police from Seoul.

2011-08-16 16:35:09 – Amid growing controversy over a proposed naval base in South Korea, national authorities have sent five brigades of police armed with crowd suppression equipment to quash protesters in the small fishing village of Gangjeong. Protesters have succeeded in stopping construction of the base with acts of civil disobedience. Both national political parties and international groups have joined in solidarity.

SOUTH KOREA, Jeju Island, August 16, 2011–On August 14 five squadrons of Seoul and Gyeonggi Province police officers came to Jeju equipped with three water cannon trucks, ten crowd suppression equipment vehicles, and sixteen large buses. The forces, numbering 700, then moved south towards Gangjeong, the location of the construction site of a controversial South Korean naval base.

Gangjeong village leaders announced that police will likely converge on peace camps occupied by protesters who have until now halted base construction by means of nonviolent civil disobedience before the end of the week.

Earlier this week Blue House Special Secretary, Lee Jae Oh, visited the island and promised to solve the situation politically. The sense of urgency in his statement is considered a driving force in the actions of police, who may anticipate a potential order to retreat.

The Jeju District Courts are also expected to sign off on a litigation suit filed by the South Korean Navy and Samsung C&T on August 17.

Governor Woo Geun Min, earlier this month, made a special phone call to the Seogwipo police department requesting that violence be avoided at all costs. However the presence of water cannons and the dramatic entrance by the police on Sunday have tensions in the community high.

Since base plans were announced five years ago, Jeju residents have used every democratic means to block its construction, including filing a lawsuit against ROK Defense Minister and holding a recall vote to oust a local governor who had consented to the plan. The hugely unpopular project has caused 95% of the island’s population to vote against it.

The recent increased show of force by the South Korean government is in response to growing global attention to the residents’ cause, including a letter of support from American feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem, and the launch of an English-language website and online petition supported by over 100 peace and religious groups worldwide.

The 400,000 square meter base will be home to a new fleet of destroyers equipped with the advanced Aegis ballistic missile defense system. Many military analysts believe that the Jeju Island naval base will serve as part of the U.S. military’s sea-based ballistic missile defense system. This same technology is also a proven anti-satellite weapon. Some analysts are also concerned that if the base is constructed it could lead to military hostilities between China and South Korea.

The ROK Navy expects to complete construction of the base on Jeju in 2014. Officials say the base, which would accommodate more than 20 warships, submarines, and other naval vessels will cost about 800-billion-won, or 865 million U.S. dollars. Major contractors on the base construction job include Samsung Corporation. The South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced commitments in 2008 and 2009 to purchase and deploy a fleet of Aegis destroyers equipped with US anti-ballistic missile and radar systems, built jointly by Hyundai and Lockheed-Martin.

Media Contact: Matthew Hoey

http://www.savejejuisland.org

matthew_hoey@savejejuisland.org

Phone: 617.953.1305

Skype: matthew_hoey

When I return to Korea at the outset of September, if there is any usefulness in doing so I hope to go to join those resisting.  A friend, Paco Michelson, who has done peace work in Afghanistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, has gone there, and is keeping me updated on things there.  Here’s a letter he sent me today:

As some of you may know, thanks to your awesome efforts to alert the international press, as well as the presence of a lot of visitors including some famous Korean opposition party politicians (which of course brought the Korean press) we were not attacked by the police this morning. We found out last night that the raid had been called delayed. No one wanted to see them come, but man, we were ready, we were ready as hell. Our nightly vigil was crowded and lively, people were singing and giving speeches. The atmosphere was hot. No doubt we were afraid but we were also ready. Of course, relief came when we found out the raid had been delayed. We also heard that the police would leave and that the Department of Defense was going to announce the next day (today) that base would be delayed indefinitely. We were surprised and cautiously optimistic.
However, we were right to be cautious as it wasn’t like we heard. Today, the atmosphere was a weird mixture of relaxed, relieved, and worried. We heard from Village leader Kang in the morning that he had heard the police were going to leave tomorrow (Wednesday, August 16) and we were of course waiting for the Defense Department announcement. Unfortunately it never came. What people are saying now is that it will come (or not come) after the court decision tomorrow (more on that later). The night vigil was back in our normal place by the river (last night it was at the main intersection of the olley farming road we are trying to hold against the police). But at the end, Go Kwon Il informed us that the police said they are not leaving. In fact, until now the police watching us have been Jeju and Seogwipo police, but tomorrow they will leave Gangjeong to take a break, and be replaced by the Gyeonggi Province and Seoul Police. We’ve also heard that while the police who have been watching us until now were mostly young and in experienced, many of the Seoul Police will be older and more experienced. There are also two units of women police officers.
Now, no one is sure about when the raid will come, but we have been told to be ready anytime. We do know, as has been mentioned before, that the non-jeju police have accommodations reserved until the 18th. Our best guess, is that they are going to wait until after the result of the court decision comes tomorrow. We think that this series of saying they are going to attack and then calling it off is their strategy for weakening our press, making us look paranoid, and hoping to wear us down and catch us off guard. The court decision that I’m mentioning is the injunction that the navy filed (a month ago? maybe a little more, I can’t remember) against 76 of the activists and villagers as well as against 5 of the activist organizations. If the court sides with the navy, then most likely the police will strike, maybe simultaneously, maybe a little later. Unfortunately, people here are not optimistic about the court’s decision. The court has basically been in the pocket of Samsung and the Navy and not been on our side at all in the past and our lawyers say that the judge is not actively looking into our claims.
Thanks for your support and kind words. Don’t worry, We’ll be okay. Pray for the villagers.
Paco and Hee Eun

For more, see this and this.  And this.   Please sign any petitions or whatever you can do to help stop this sadly typical action of the US military-industrial complex.  Needless to say our corporate media is not going to be telling you anything about it.

[Update:  with virtually no coverage in Korea’s corporate press, forces moved into the village, arrested the mayor and evicted the resisting people, and Samsung commenced building the military base.   In October, in a Seoul mayoral election the right-wing candidate lost badly and this was taken as an sign that in the coming Presidential election they may also suffer a serious defeat, in which case the Jeju base matter may come into question.]

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One Comment

  1. Thanks from me, and on behalf of my friend Paco and wife Hee eun in Jeju and the villagers there who just might win their fight against our imperial overlords. The present President in Korea, a “conservative”, is now not very popular and apparently the Jeju island matter has become public in Korea, with most people siding with the island, the villagers and perhaps the government will change its mind instead of charging in with police and military to stop the protestors. We hope. Meantime nice blog of yours and the link to thoughts on London correspond pretty much to what I see around me here in my brief stay in Paris, where there’s much the same scenario being played out.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Jon Jost’s excellent “Cinema Electronica” blog today, he details yet another American despoiling of territory. For what purpose? The territory described […]

  2. By Korean Bucket List | First for Everything on 07 Oct 2013 at 2:34 am

    […] Source: Cinemaelectronica […]

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