Jeju is a beautiful World Heritage island off the coast of South Korea – just a few hundred miles from mainland China. The South Korean Navy, under pressure from the US, wants to build a naval base at the 450 year old village of Gangjeong on the southern coast of the Island. According to a mutual defence pact and Status of Forces Agreement, the US can use any South Korean ports and airfields and President Obama has declared the Asia-Pacific as a military “pivot” in his projection of power “to protect U.S. interests and investments.” The US wants to use the base to berth their Aegis missile defence ships and nuclear aircraft carriers. For five years, the villagers have been fighting the base ‘destruction’ through political and legal means, at the same time they have been using non-violent protest to resist each stage of the building process (see: Save Jeju Island and on Facebook: ‘Save Jeju Island’ and ‘No Naval Base on Jeju’). The Navy and lead contractors Samsung and Daelim have taken over property; felled trees; destroyed greenhouses; and built miles of razor wired fence to prevent the villager’s access to Guroembi rocks, their ancient, holy place of prayer
Guest blogger CND Chair Dave Webb reports: “I have just returned from attending the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space’s international peace conference held there in support of the villagers and activists. The people are amazing in their resistance and persistence. When they can’t walk to Guroembi, they kayak. When the kayaks are blocked by hordes of riot police, they swim. The passion, energy and love the people have for this place is something to behold. Jeju is a volcanic island, and there are many rock formations, but Guroembi is unique. Fresh water springs lay beneath; offshore coral reefs; endangered species of red crab are part of the eco-system under threat. The villagers – fishermen, women divers, farmers, lovers of nature – have had no voice in the decision to blast Guroembi to smithereens and cover the remains in cement to build this naval base. They have been organizing for years to change the hearts and minds of decision-makers, and to prevent the destruction of their village their livelihoods and their culture.
Our international delegation got a brief glimpse of the determination and creativity of the villagers. We have been following the videos from Gangjeong hat show villagers and activists being arrested (sometimes brutally) for laying down in front of bulldozers, cement trucks, cranes, and machines meant to blast holes deep into the rocks. In prison they go on hunger strike and when released lay their bodies down again.
Jeju Island has a triple crown of UNESCO recognition as: 1) a World National Heritage site; 2) a Biosphere Reserve Zone, and 3) a World Geological Park. It is a government-designated “absolute preservation area”. It is characterised by rare rock formations, abundant and fertile farmlands, pristine fresh and seawaters, and endangered marine life. Concerned world citizens should honour the people of Gangjeong who are giving their lives to protect this rare and valuable place.
Professor Yang Yoon-Mo recently turned 56 in Jeju City prison. He is in jail for the second time in a year for putting his body in front of cement and construction trucks – the first time, he fasted for over 70 days. Since his arrest in January, he has begun a second hunger strike again, and is now in his fourth week. This gentle, holy man has said clearly: “If Guroembi lives, I live; if Guroembi dies, I die. Do not cry for me, cry for the future generations who may not be able to know the beauty of Guroembi.”
We all need to take action. The navy is now planning to start blasting Guroembi rocks in the next day or two. The villagers are desperate. Please Save Guroembi. Save Yang Yoon-Mo. Do your part.”
Island Governor (Mr. Woo Keun-Min, Governor, The Government of Jeju-do, RoK, firstname.lastname@example.org);
President (Mr. Lee Myung-Bak, President, Republic of Korea, email@example.com );
Defense Minister (Mr. Kim Kwan-Jin, Minister, Ministry of National Defense, RoK firstname.lastname@example.org)
Especially put pressure on the Jeju Island Governor to prevent the blasting of Goreombi rocks! Let them all know that the world is watching, and that destruction of the village to build a naval base needs to stop. As the people continue to plead: “Please save Gangejong, the Life and Peace village.”