We had a 10-hour tour (de-tour) today of the militarization on Oahu in
Hawaii. Kyle Kajihiro, former director of the AFSC peace program until the
national office did a massive cutting back and closed their local office, is a
long-time and dedicated peace worker who knows just about everything that is
happening on this island.
More than 20% of Oahu is militarized and that number is growing by the day.
Obama's "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific means that the Pacific Command (PACOM)
headquarters here will grow and its "area of responsibility" will become much
more important and its mission much more aggressive. Bad news for Hawaii and for
the people of the Pacific.
We were joined today by two activists from Kauai who will be hosting us when we
go there on Tuesday. On Monday we will have a mini-conference here with about 20
key people from at least three of Hawaiian islands. It will be a chance for us
to learn more about their work and share with them the stories from the Global
We are staying in the guest rooms of the Friends Meeting House (Quakers) here in
Honolulu. It's very comfortable and much cheaper than anything else we could
have found in this expensive city. It's late and I'll write more tomorrow. I've
got a ton of emails to get caught up with.
Spring training started today for my Baltimore Orioles baseball team. They've
signed two pitchers from Japan and Taiwan. The Pacific region now touches my
baseball life too. Should be an interesting year.
LEARNING MORE ABOUT MILITARIZATION OF HAWAII
Network leader Dave Webb from the UK yesterday at Naval
Communications Center in the middle of Oahu during our de-tour of
military sites. You can see three white satellite communications
devices in the background.
We had a great meeting today at the
Quaker Meeting House in Honolulu. We heard from activists from Oahu,
Kauai, and the big island who are working against the expanding
military bases on each of their islands. Alot of the expansion is
gobbling up large areas for military training. On the big island the
military wants seven times what they now have for war training. The
Army has ignored a county council resolution that called for a halt at
the Pohakuloa bombing range.
One of the activists from Kauai told a story about his recent
leafletting about our talk that is
scheduled there for tomorrow. He handed a flyer to a woman who
said to him, "My husband works at the base [Navy's Pacific Missile
Range Facility where Aegis destroyers test their interceptor
missiles]. He has cancer. Everybody in his shop has cancer."
On Oahu the military machine is paying a native Hawaiian Democrat
$750,000 to counter organize against local peace group opposition to
Army expansion. On Oahu 17% of the total population is military
connected while 20% of island residents are native Hawaiian.
We concluded the meeting by going around and asking each person to
share three strategy ideas. Amongst the top choices of the group were:
Keep building the Occupy movement across the country and inside
Work more with young people and develop peace education
curriculum for schools
Keep connecting the dots between key military installations and
Use the UMASS-Amherst Economics Department
jobs study to drive home the fact that military spending is the
least effective way to create jobs
Expand our use of culture and alternative media to reach out to
Take on the China threat myth
A day or weekend of coordinated actions across the Pacific
should be organized
Keep a public presence at the military bases/training
Come to the protest of the NATO/G8 summit in Chicago next May
Organize a local action during Keep Space for Peace Week during
We are getting up at 5:00 am for an early flight to Kauai. We will
visit the Pacific Missile Range Facility, have a swim, and do a live
radio interview before
our talk at the library.
On Wednesday Dave and I head to Jeju Island. Lynda will head back
20 February 2012
Darkness in Paradise
By Dave Webb
Dave Webb, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, reports on the
militarisation of Hawaii home to the world's largest defense testing facility
in the world
A range of volcanic islands and a holiday paradise that is also
one of the many military oppressed islands in the Pacific Region. The political
and military importance of this region is not escaping the islanders. President
Obama’s moves to escalate the US military presence here is threatening even
further the lives and livelihoods of the people. It is unlikely that
holidaymakers will be aware of the history of the Islands and the past and
present domination of the US military industrial complex there – which exercises
a cynical and arrogant display of power.
A ballistic missile is launched from Barking Sands, Kauai
We are staying on Oahu, one of the Hawaii chain and the Island
that includes Honolulu and Pearl Harbour and yesterday we had a 10-hour tour
(known as the De-Tour) of the militarization of Oahu. Kyle Kajihiro, former
director of the American Friends Services Committee peace program, is a
long-time and dedicated peace worker who knows just about everything that is
happening on this island. It’s strange that the national flag of Hawaii has a
Union Jack in the top left corner and yet Hawaii was never a British colony.
This apparently dates back to when the Islanders were trying to resist the US
empire and wanted to develop friendly relations with Britain, even asking them
to intervene. The US did of course eventually colonise the Islands and then
encompassed them further as the 50th state in 1959.
Over 20% of the Island of Oahu is militarized and that figure is
continually growing and set to grow exponentially in the near future. The trip
was full of stories of how the Islanders have been lied to, tricked and
generally downtrodden and abused and their environment polluted and destroyed
over the years by the military. We drove past the High School attended by
President Obama, it is a huge, well resourced campus, in direct contrast with
conditions that so many indigenous families live in. Forced out of their houses
for various reasons (take-overs by the military or financial difficulties), many
live in makeshift shanty towns on our near the beach. They are being threatened
with being moved on yet again further away from the eyes of the well housed and
well off US middle classes. They are known locally as the “houseless” rather
than homeless - as the island is their home but they are not allowed or not
able to be properly housed there. Their numbers are likely to increase further
as Obama’s "pivotal shift" to the Asia-Pacific means that the US Pacific Command
(PACOM) headquarters here will grow and its "area of responsibility" will
become increasingly more important - and its mission much more aggressive. This
can only be bad news for Hawaii and for the people of the Pacific.
On the tour we visited the Pearl Harbour Memorial (a US National
Monument) which is a huge area overlooking the harbour (where a nuclear powered
submarine and a nuclear powered aircraft carrier were on proud display with
flags flying). Kyle showed us the little corner of the park that has been given
over to the abbreviated and censored story of the indigenous people. It reminded
me of the small corner of the Royal Armouries in Leeds given over to the Peace
Museum. We also went past the NSA’s Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center (KRSOC).
This is a secured, bomb-proof, underground installation established in response
to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It is a sister establishment to
Menwith Hill and Kyle told us that the whole thing is due to be moved to the
NSA’s Central Security Service's Hawaii Regional Security Operations Center
currently being constructed near Whitmore Village not too far away on Oahu, at
the former site of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station
Pacific, or NCTAMS PAC.
We were joined on our trip yesterday by two activists from
another Hawaiian Island – Kauai. This is the home of “Barking Sands”, the
Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF - the world's largest missile testing and
training range. In around 2 years time the PMRF will see a new missile testing
complex – the “Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex” which is due to be
built on two locations at the Westside base on the Island as a test and
evaluation centre as one of the developments of the 2nd phase of
President Obama’s “Phased Adaptive Approach” to
Today we are part of a mini-conference with about 20 people from key campaigns
on at least three of Hawaiian islands. Tomorrow we will be speaking at a
conference on the Impacts of Missile Defense on the Pacific, Asia and the World.
22 February 2012
Darkness in Paradise - 2
By Dave Webb
There are so many huge military installations on the Hawaiian
chain of islands that it is easy to overlook some of the smaller ones. I forgot
to mention in the previous report that, at the end of the road on our “De-Tour”
of Oahu, at the top of the Island, we stopped by Kaena Point Satellite Tracking
Station, part of the US Air Force Space Command System responsible for tracking
military satellites, receiving and processing their data and relaying commands
to them from control centres. The familiar satellite dishes and large white golf
ball were perched on the top of an otherwise typically rugged hillside
overlooking the blue sea.
Yesterday’s meeting at the Quaker Meeting House in Honolulu went
really well. Among the attendees were people from Oahu, Kauai, and the Big
Island, all of whom are working against the expanding US military presence on
their islands. This military expansionism, part of President Obama’s strategy of
developing a “Pacific Pivot”, is taking up more and more of the land area of the
Islands as bases expand, new ones spring up and large areas are taken over for
military training. For example, the US military is set to take up 7 times more
land area than they already have and the US Army has ignored a county council
resolution that has called for a halt in the development of the Pohakuloa
We exchanged many stories and a lot of information. For example,
it seems that 17% of the population on Oahu is connected with the military,
while just 20% of island residents are native Hawaiian. Two of those present,
Kip Goodwin and Fred Dente will be our hosts in Kaua’i, they are leaving for
home after the meeting.
The next day we had to leave the Friends’ House at 5:00am to
catch an early flight to Kaua’i, the northern most island of the chain.
This is a beautiful island, a series of connected ancient
volcanic craters, with their crumbling walls filled by the sea. Tropical
undergrowth climbs up the side of what remains of the slopes of the crater
walls, the highest regions of which are often draped in a mist of cloud, while
spray from the Hawaiin waves and gentle rain falls intermittently on the warm
sands. This is the place you see in movies; in fact King Kong and Jurassic Park
were both filmed here. One of the biggest crater areas traps incoming water
bearing cloud and is apparently the wettest place on the planet.
We were picked up by Kip and Sharon. It turned out that Kip had
spent the night in the Airport on Oahu on stand by for a flight home. He had
only managed to get a few hours sleep and had arrived just before us. We were
driven to a nearby town for breakfast. Yesterday had been Shrove Tuesday so I
had pineapple and coconut pancakes. I have never seen such a huge pile of
pancakes and could only just about eat half! After breakfast we were met by
Sandy who took us further on the road around the island.
One strange thing we noticed was that wherever you go you see
chickens running loose. Apparently these are feral chickens – a hurricane swept
the island in 1992 and released the chickens from their compounds and since then
they have survived in the wild. Bruce suggested that the chickens talk about
this as their year of liberation – when they finally achieved their freedom!
People don’t seem to like them too much but no-one rounds them up either.
Amidst the sweet smelling flowers and the idyllic setting, it is
sometimes difficult to remember that this island is also the home of the US
Navy’s huge Pacific Missile Range Facility.
After a mid-morning swim and lunch in a wonderful cove
surrounded by what remains of a crescent shaped crater rim, covered by jungle,
we were driven to one of the local radio stations as guests for a talk show. The
radio station was in a clearing in a wooded area, reached via a rough track. It
was a small rustic looking shack with an extension consisting of a canvas roof
stretched between metal upright poles. Beneath the balcony was a small metal
round table surrounded by four or five chairs. The scene was reminiscent of some
guerrilla headquarters somewhere in the Guatemalan jungle. The show seemed to go
quite well we were very sympathetically interviewed about why we were there and
what our campaign and protest was about. Here we met up with Ray Catania a local
organiser for our visit and a committed activist.
After the radio interview we moved on to Kapaa public library
for the public meeting. Outside a demonstration about the GM fields on the
island was just ending. There are a number of GM fields on the island, run by
companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta. Much against the wishes of many of the
The meeting focussed on the Pacific Missile Range Facility -
their website claims that "PMRF is the world's largest instrumented
multi-environmental range capable of supported surface, sub-surface, air, and
space operations simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of
instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled
airspace." The US military has used the Pacific as a testing area for nuclear
weapons and missiles since the 1950s. Although nuclear weapons are no longer
tested there, missiles and “missile defence” interceptors are regularly fired
from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and The Ronald Reagan Ballistic
Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll and Wake Island in the Marshall
Islands. The performance of the missiles during the tests is monitored and
analysed by a string of Hawaiian bases, the most important of which is the PMRF.
Part of the PMRF
It is at the PMRF that the "missile defense" systems on the US
Navy Aegis destroyers are flight tested. The Aegis ships are built at Bath Iron
Works in Maine (where Bruce lives) and will use the South Korean Naval base
being constructed on Jeju Island. This trip is all about making these particular
connections but the Pentagon will also be using bases in many other places,
including Japan, Australia, the Middle East, the Black Sea, and the
Mediterranean to berth these ships. In addition, ”Aegis Ashore” missile
interceptors are due to be stationed in Romania, Poland and elsewhere and, as
Bruce says, “the US Navy has a big public relations campaign on national TV
where they call themselves ‘a global force for good.’" They are attempting to
“brainwash the US public into supporting their aggressive ‘full spectrum
dominance’ program that only really benefits corporate globalization”.
At the meeting, our MC, Koohan Paik, gave a fantastic
introduction - making all the connections with an impressive and powerful series
of slides. I followed presenting some of the technical aspects of missile
“defence” and highlighting the roles of Fylingdales and Menwith Hill, showing
how they fit with other components. After me came Lynda with her unique song and
slide show on nuclear weapons, war in space and missile defence. The audience
was wowed! Finally, Bruce gave a magnificent speech, recalling some of the human
stories of the campaign and calling on everyone to take action in any way they
can. Among those present was singer and song writer Buffy Sainte-Marie – who
wrote “Universal Soldier” – she introduced herself at the end and everyone who
spoke to us said they were inspired and enthused. The organisers, who had done
such a good job to get a completely packed hall, were really pleased. They hope
very much that this meeting will mark the start of a new sustained and energetic
local opposition to the PMRF.
Tonight we go different ways – Lynda stays with Koohan and Bruce
and I stay with Kip and his wife. Tomorrow we have to get up at 5am again to
catch a flight to South Korea. We will cross the International Date Line which
means we will time travel and switch from being way behind time to being way
ahead. We will also be moving from the areas of the Pacific used in the past
(and present) for nuclear and missile testing to areas where President Obama’s
policies are ensuring that new future nuclear and missile systems are tested,
developed, and stationed. In the words of Buffy Sainte-Marie – “this is not the
way we out an end to war.”
22 February 2012
Great Turnout on Kuai
By Bruce Gagnon
The Kauai Alliance
for Peace & Social Justice organized a great turnout last night of over 100
folks who came to hear talks by Koohan Paik, Dave Webb, Lynda Williams and
myself. The two hours of presentations were patiently listened to by virtually
everyone. It was a big step forward for their group and their island.
The Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) is one of those isolated and not
frequently challenged manifestations of the military industrial complex. It sits
along the coast of Kauai and takes a long time to drive to. Few ever go there
and many have been intimidated over the years into grudgingly accepting its
presence because of the "jobs" issue. Even many of those who are inclined to
oppose PMRF have learned to live with it and this unpleasant acceptance has
largely become the norm. (I heard that next month PMRF is sponsoring a health
care weekend where they will offer to provide check-ups for those without
insurance. Isn't that sweet? The military, who has socialized medicine, is going
to offer to give the poor folks a bit of a taste of the good life. All of course
intended as public relations.)
Koohan Paik, one of the leaders of the Kauai peace group, led things off with a
blistering denunciation of PMRF and its mission to test the Aegis "missile
defense" (MD) interceptor system. Obama has decided to additionally create the
"Aegis Ashore" program where they will put the usually ship-based MD systems on
land. After testing at PMRF these Aegis Ashore interceptors will be deployed in
Romania and other locations in the growing encirclement of Russia and China.
Koohan also did a powerful slide show of the struggle on Jeju Island and won
over the hearts of those in the audience for the struggling Gangjeong villagers.
Dave Webb did a slide show that showed how the Space Command has set up the
global system of satellites, radar stations, MD bases, and more that now weave
the full spectrum dominance plan into place. He showed how PMRF fits into the
larger Pentagon's grand scheme of things and was able to put to rest the myth
that the Navy testing missile installation on Kauai had anything at all to do
Lynda Williams, physics teacher from California and long-time Global Network
board member, is also an entertainer. She writes songs about space and science
as a way to help her students and the public understand these issues. Her song
"War in Heaven" was my favorite of the four numbers she performed to her adoring
audience last night. I woke up at 4:00 am singing it........
I wrapped up the event by telling a number of stories that illustrated the
mission and dangers of PMRF, the agenda behind the current U.S. "pivot" into the
Asia-Pacific to surround China, and more. I concluded by taking on the jobs
issue by reminding people that military production is in fact the worst way to
create jobs with our tax dollars.
After the event was over I was surprised to be approached by a woman who said
she grew up visiting a lake in Maine. Then she said she wrote the famous
Vietnam-era anti-war song
Soldier. It was none other than Buffy Sainte-Marie. She was very kind and
Earlier in the day we had a swim at one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever
been to. Kauai is a wondrous mix of mountains and breath taking beaches. One of
my favorite things was the abundance of wild chickens roaming around the island
- the true free-range chicken. It appears that a hurricane in 1992 had smashed
all the chicken houses on the island and they've been "liberated" ever since.
I'm at the Honolulu airport waiting on my flight to South Korea. Dave Webb is
also on a flight to South Korea but left two hours earlier than me. It's a
10-hour journey to Seoul and then we must transfer to a domestic airline for the
trip to Jeju Island. MB and Natasha Mayers are coming from Maine and will meet
us on Jeju Island along with a bunch of other Global Network leaders.
Our Hawaii visit was a huge success and I must thank Lynda Williams who got the
whole idea brewing for the Global Network. I think our activist friends in
Hawaii, who often feel so isolated, very much appreciated our visit and our
solidarity. I think that we will see more collaboration in the future.
23 February 2012
Darkness in Paradise - 3
By Dave Webb
Arrived ok on Jeju about 8.30pm – caught the bus to Gangjeong and all was
going well – then walking to the meeting place from the bus stop I realised that
I had taken the wrong bag from the bus which was now disappearing down the road.
Bit of a panic. Luckily the first person I saw at the meeting place was Regina
Pyon and I told her what had happened she immediately called over two friends
who bundled me into a pickup truck and we shot off down the road after the bus.
One of the friends was Mi Kyoung Kang a wonderful director of the Hanbit Women’s
Shelter. We caught up with it in Seogwipo City (Mi Kyoung’s home town) not far
along the road and bags were exchanged successfully – then went to a nearby
coffee shop! So at least I was able to see another part of the Island. An
unexpectedly exciting start to the visit to the Island!
Today and tomorrow delegates will be arriving from around the world to learn
about the struggle of the people of Gangjeong village. Their part of this
beautiful island coastline is being destroyed (rare coral reefs and all) by the
building of a huge Korean naval base. The US is keen to use the base when it is
built, just a few hundred miles from the Chinese mainland, to berth their Aegis
missile defence ships and aircraft carriers. The people of Gangjeong are
resisting this military take-over of their lives with every scrap of energy they
can muster. We are here to show support for their stand against the
repercussions of US nuclear and missile defence policies in the Pacific and
around the world. A new cold war arms race is beginning and must be stopped.
We start today with a visit to our conference venue - the memorial museum
that relates the story of the massacre of around 30,000 Jeju Islanders on April
3, 1948. At the end of World War 2 there was a power confrontation between the
Soviet Union in the north and the US in the south. The Soviet Union held an
election in the north and installed its candidates and in the south the US
supported Koreans who had collaborated with the Imperial Japanese forces during
Groups opposing the division of the country began organising rallies and
marches. The people of Jeju did not want to take a stand with either North or
South and were therefore accused of being communists by the South (if you’re not
with us then you are against us). On March 1st 1948 a “shooting incident”
occurred when police opened fire on a crowd, killing six people. Imprisonments
and a general crackdown on the left began and this resulted in a full uprising
on April 3rd.
Jeju Island became a “massive prison and killing field” with the US backed
government aggressively imposing wholesale “slaughter of civilians among the
hill villages.” The Island was set ablaze and over 90% of the villages torched.
The museum sets out the heart rending story very well – emphasising the
militaristic approach of the government - not wanting to listen to the cries of
the people but just intent on putting down any rebellion. On May 13, 1949 the
American ambassador to South Korea told Washington that the Jeju rebels and
their sympathizers had been, "killed, captured, or converted."
Eventually, after civil rule was reinstated in the 1990s, the government did
make several apologies for this brutal suppression and President Roh Moo-Hyun
officially apologized to the people of Jeju Province in April 2006 and a Truth
and Reconciliation Commission was formed. However, this tragedy seems to be
being repeated now in Gangjeong village. Those responsible for the construction
of the Naval Base are ignoring the pleas and protestations of the villagers.
In the afternoon, Around 150 people gathered in the museum auditorium for the
conference speeches in the afternoon. There were a large number of Catholic
priests and nuns in the audience who had come to hear their Bishop help open the
conference and a delegation of Buddhist monks held a news conference to announce
their support. People have travelled a long way and from at least 13 different
countries to hear the speeches, meet the villagers and show their support.
conference was excellent – it opened with some welcome speeches (including Kang
Dong-Kyun, the amazing Gangjeong village mayor; me, as Chair of the Global
Network; Oh Choong-Jin, Chairman of the Island Council and Kang Woo-Il, Bishop
of the Jeju Catholic district). A number of Keynotes from various activists
followed, including Angie Zelter (on non-violence and the peace movement) and
Bruce Gagnon (on US military strategy in East Asia). An excellent new
documentary film, with English subtitles, by Dungree called “A year in
Gangjeong 2011” was screened and followed by more keynotes, including a
number of speeches from village representatives. The powerful closing statement
was given by Roman Catholic priest, and energetic campaigner against the Navy
Base, Fr. Moon Jung-Hyun. All of the speeches presented can be found on the
Global Network web-site (www.space4peace.org/actions/gnconf_2012.htm).
We then adjourned to a local restaurant for dinner. A few more informal and
unprepared speeches were given during dinner and we were introduced to the
tradition that a speaker has to end their speech with a song!
A long and tiring day but packed with information and the opportunity to meet
some incredible people. Tomorrow looks like it will be an exciting day too ....
24 February 2012
Day One in Gangjeong
By Bruce Gagnon
There is so much to write about and so little time. Yesterday we
began our time here on Jeju Island with a conference at the museum where the
story of the April 3, 1948 massacre of tens of thousands of Jeju residents is
told. Following the end of WW II the U.S. took control of Korea and put the
former Koreans who collaborated with fascist Japan in charge of the country. The
U.S. began the process of dividing Korea and the people of Jeju were accused of
being communists because they were independent minded and did not want to follow
the corrupt leaders appointed by the U.S. military.
The people rebelled and the U.S. military directed the new Korean government to
aggressively put down the rebellion. The museum does a fine, and heart breaking
job, of telling this sad but virtually unknown story.
The people of Gangjeong village feel that the April 3 tragedy is being played
out again by the construction of the Navy base in their village. About 150
gathered in the museum auditorium for speeches yesterday by South Korean and
international activists. Folks have come here from at least a dozen countries to
show their support for the struggling villagers. Many Catholic priests and nuns
were in the audience to hear their Bishop welcome us. A delegation of Buddhist
monks held a news conference to announce their support for the struggle.
I am told that the conference yesterday drew more media coverage than people had
seen in a long time which makes everyone here very pleased. Today we spend our
time meeting with villagers to talk and share food.
As we arrived in South Korea we were greeted by headlines in the newspapers
about right-wing President Lee having just held a news conference to announce
that he intends to speed up the Navy base construction project and push through
the controversial Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. Many feel that his days are
numbered as the coming spring election will bring an end to his mean-spirited
and divisive reign of power. But for the people in Gangjeong village there is
little relief as they daily see the Samsung Corporation (lead base contractor)
make further moves toward the blasting of their sacred rocky coast.
The approximately 30 international activists are all mindful that our time here
is short. We had a meeting late last evening to discuss ways our energies could
be best put to use. We will have a formal strategy meeting with village leaders
tomorrow but for the moment we must continue to appeal to the hearts of our
friends around the world to keep Gangjeong in your prayers and hope that you
will take steps to rally people where you live to devise ways to show public
support for the noble people here who clearly understand that this Navy base
will be a trigger for a wider arms race in the region that will over time hurt
all of us, no matter where we live.
24 February 2012
The Best Time, The Worst Time
By Bruce Gagnon
Navy is expanding its effort to put razor wire all along the rocky coastline
so the villagers cannot any longer stand on their sacred ground. But the
people keep coming by swimming or on kayaks. They are determined. They
continue to be arrested. As I write this a group will find their way there for
the Sunday morning Catholic mass.
Yesterday we had a joint meeting between the villagers and our international
guests. Our folks shared stories about U.S. and NATO space technology
expansion into Sweden and Norway, the effort by the U.S. to get India to
create their own aggressive Space Command to help "contain" China, and the
Vandenberg AFB in California space missile launching center.
One elderly man from Gangjeong village told us he can't sleep at night,
suffers from depression, and sees that the community has been physically and
spiritually torn apart by the base construction. He asked what they could do?
In the afternoon we took a walking tour all around the imposing barbed
wire-topped fences that have been erected around the base site. We could hear
the heavy equipment from inside the destruction zone and the police practicing
their harsh anti-protest tactics.
We planted seeds, placed rocks and poured water from our hometowns in the new
garden at the peace park that is being created just outside the fence line
that guards one end of the base. Even in the midst of the ugliness and
barbarity of the base the people are planting the seeds of life and hope. They
still laugh and smile and share food. They love their land and the sea in
spite of the Navy and construction corporations who have nothing but disdain
for democracy, for the villagers 450-year old history, and for their close
relationship to nature. It is good and evil in an epic struggle. Good and bad
playing out right before our eyes.
After supper together in the village community center we were treated to the
most inspiring and joyful experience of the nightly candlelight vigil. Vigil
is the wrong word - it should rather be described as rally-dance-music
festival-party. A totally amazing experience.
Speeches (Mary Beth's was a huge hit as she told her story of daily watching
the videos from the village) were followed by traditional Korean drumming and
singing; songs by villagers (including the mayor who has a great voice and
many say looks like the actor Robert Mitchum; peace in space awards
presentations by the Global Network to the village and to South Korean
activist and GN board member Wooksik Cheong who was instrumental in organizing
the programs; speech by the former governor of Jeju Island who ended by
singing Amazing Grace; lots of dancing (including 75 year olds Agneta Norberg
from Sweden and J. Narayana Rao from India); and the big finale that turned
out to be a choreographed three-song set with spiral dancing and virtually
everyone there including the old village women whose backs are bent from years
of hard work on their farms. One village woman sang two songs that sounded
very similar to Native American cultures that I have witnessed. This all
lasted until midnight and they ended by saying, "We'll see you tomorrow night
for more. We do this every night!"
Near the end of the evening village Mayor Kang called me up and handed me bags
of gifts for each of the 3o-some international guests. As we were leaving he
came running up to thank me again for helping to bring these wonderful
activists from around the world to their struggling community.
Before I left home Maine friend and filmmaker Eric Herter loaned me a video
camera and begged me to take as much footage as possible. I've never been much
good with a camera but since Eric, who wanted badly to be with us but could
not come, insisted I took on the task. I've been faithfully talking bits of
video and interviewing people as we go along. I don't know if I got the light
right at times, or the picture framed properly, but I am trying. Eric promised
to do the editing and will make a mini-documentary out of it (if the footage
I thought to myself last night what a great gift we have all been given to be
able to witness, and participate in, this absolutely remarkable experience. We
are witnessing the best and worst times in the life of Gangjeong village. They
are experiencing absolute horror but they are taking the moment and creating
pure joy as well.
I feel like I am rambling on here but there is so much I want to share but
feel incapable of doing so in the way I'd like to. I just wish everyone could
come here to see for themselves this moment - you'd be changed, inspired,
outraged, heart broken, and more.
We live our lives in boxes of comfort and conformity. All those boxes are
being broken and cast aside here in Gangjeong.
BUSTED ON JEJU ISLAND
Ten international activists and six Korean activists were arrested today
after crawling under the razor wire at the Navy base on Jeju Island. Seven
Global Network members were among those arrested including Bruce Gagnon,
Mary Beth Sullivan, Dave Webb, Natasha Mayers, Agneta Norberg, Gun-Brit
Makitalo, and Dennis Apel.
More than 70 activists used kayaks to get onto the rocky coast where they
held a Catholic mass, sang songs, ate food, made speeches, and then moved
under the the wire fence to enter the base destruction area.
Five of those arrested were moved to Dongbu police station in Jeju City.
Today's candlelight vigil was held in front of Seogwipo police station
where the other 11 were being held. The police arrested 20 more people
during the vigil at the police station claiming it was an illegal protest.
After some hassles by the authorities many of the activists were released
from jail by about 11:00 pm.
26 February 2012
Sleepless in Protest Central
By Bruce Gagnon
Great video montage from last few days on Jeju Island. Please
share the link to this with folks in your community.
We are doing a news conference today in Jeju City about the large number of
arrests yesterday. No time for rest around here. We had a meeting until 2:00
am last night.
Angie Zelter from the UK is going to stay here for a month after the rest of
us leave which is good news. She is an experienced and determined woman. More
folks are needed here to support the beleaguered villagers. Please consider
sending a delegation from your community to Gangjeong village ASAP.
Consider it an activist vacation that you will never forget.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE ACTIVISTS NEEDED IN GANGJEONG VILLAGE IMMEDIATELY
When we got back to Gangjeong village on Feb 27 after the news conference we learned
that the police were blocking villagers from using their kayaks
Global Network chairperson Dave Webb (UK) reading the letter to Governor
Woo from Global Network leaders
Feb 27 news conference in Jeju City. Mayor Kang is speaking
In Jeju City for news conference on Feb 27 demanding Governor Woo protect the Gangjeong villagers and the environment
Gathering on the rocky coast on Feb 26. Got there by kayak and eventually 16
of us arrested for crawling under razor wire to protest the Navy's
It was difficult for all of us to leave Gangjeong village. My last day in
the village was filled with horror as the police surrounded the villagers
and their kayaks and would not allow them to be put in the water. Four
villagers were arrested and a daylong back and forth struggle took place
where villagers and supporters would not give up their attempts to pull a
kayak free and quickly put them in the water trying to head toward the
embattled rocky coastline that is now virtually sealed off with razor
Several people were hurt, as the police would swarm over any attempt to
remove a kayak. Catholic Father Moon was knocked to the bottom of one
scrum along with another revered villager who got his hand cut up. A
Frenchman named Benji, who has been in the village for months, was knocked
down and repeatedly pounced on by the police. I saw the police push one
man off a ramp who was filming the scene.
Natasha Mayers (Maine artist) and Global Network board member Sung-Hee
Choi were able to get one kayak into the water. Angie Zelter put on a life
vest and jumped into the cold water and swam to the rocky coastline. Benji
jumped in with half of a wet suit on to make sure she didn't drown.
At one point I was asked to help create a diversion by going into the
middle of where the police were surrounding the kayaks and attempt to pull
a kayak out while others took kayaks from a nearby boat house. This worked
and I was exhausted after trying to pull a kayak free from the grips of
the police for at least 10-15 minutes during my diversionary attempt.
Earlier in the day yesterday about 30 of the villagers and remaining
international supporters made the one-hour trip to Jeju City to hold a
news conference demanding that the weak-kneed Governor Woo stand up to the
Navy and protect the 450-year old village from destruction by the Navy. A
large number of media covered the news conference and then we moved across
the street to the governor's office building but they locked us out.
I've never seen such a thing where taxpaying citizens were locked out of
their own government building - especially with the large media throng
accompanying them. After much Korean-style yelling and demanding they
finally opened the door and allowed Mayor Kang, Dave Webb (UK), Atsushi
Fujioka (Japan), me, and a translator to go up and deliver our letter to
the governor's office.
All day long I couldn't get out of my head the thought that South Korea is
absolutely a police state. I think it is a sign of where we in the U.S.
are quickly heading. The South Korean people have been dealing with this
reality for many years but we in the U.S. are hardly prepared for what
this tastes like.
I've just arrived at JFK airport in New York City after a 13-hour flight
from Seoul. When I checked the Facebook page called
No Navy Base on Jeju! I saw a tweet from Father Moon saying, "February
28 Gangjeong port blockade! Today, worse! They surrounded the kayak
storage container. Not even allowed to enter the sea, blocking fiercely!
SWAT team has been deployed, who was mobilized at that time of Yongsan
eviction crack down in 2009 [in Seoul]."
The Navy has been bringing police in from Seoul by the hundreds at a time.
They have no allegiance to Jeju Island and are conscripts doing their
two-years of service.
So in the last two days about 30 people have been arrested for trying to
protect the sacred coast of Gangjeong village. The villagers tell us that
every day is like this -
an endless struggle just to be able to stand on their own shoreline or
now even have access to the water with a kayak!
People keep asking what they can do to help. They should continue to call
the South Korean embassy/consulate nearest to you. But most importantly
more international delegations are urgently needed in the village. When
the international presence is strong the police have to back off some of
their more aggressive treatment of the villagers.
I can't urge strongly enough for activists around the world to discuss
sending 2-3 folks from your community to Jeju for 7-10 days. We can help
you make the necessary contacts there. Please discuss this great need in
your local community. I can promise you it will be an experience that you
will never forget. The villagers are worn out and would be thrilled if you
could bring them this kind of support.
27 February 2012
Darkness in Paradise - 4
By Dave Webb
is a beautiful World Heritage island off the coast of South Korea - just a few
hundred miles from mainland China where the Yellow and East China Seas meet. 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.” It is quite clear that the US will want to use the
base to berth its Aegis missile defence ships and nuclear aircraft carriers.
Jeju Island - or “Island of World Peace” - is so named in recognition of the
massacre there in 1948 when more than 30,000 civilians were brutally killed by
the South Korean government. The Island eventually received an apology for this
atrocity from the South Korean President in 2006. However, at the same time the
government was also planning for the construction of the naval base that will
destroy this area of unique biological diversity.
The Gangjeong villagers have been fighting the base ‘destruction’ for five
years, using all the means at their disposal - political lobbying, legal
challenges and protests and demonstrations. See the excellent video from
The construction of the base started last year and has reached a stage where
the only means left is civil resitance and non-violent protest (for up to date
information see the facebook pages ‘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.
The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space’s
international peace conference was held there in February to support of the
villagers and activists.
The villagers 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 at the conference 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
During our brief visit we occupied the rocks by kiaks (the quickest and
easiest way on to the rocks at that time) to hold our meeting and many were
arrested going through the razor wire to reclaim the area. Ten internationals
were held for several hours by the police and questioned - local activists were
treated much more brutally by the authorities.
Dennis Apel, a Catholic worker from California, made this video:
Since then the action has escalated considerably - Angie Zelter (from the UK)
and Benjamin Monet (from France) are two great international non violent
organisers - they and 14 other people were arrested after the rocks were
re-occupied by the villagers, barriers tron down and razor wire cut to allow
access. Seri Kim, a Korean peace activist and Benjamin were injured by security
forces and charged after climbing a crane to prevent drilling and blasting.
Eventually, Benjamin was deported to Hong Kong and Angie told to leave the
country. Three US veterans who were travelling to jeju Island to join the
villagers were turned back and not allowed to enter.
International protest has resulted in the Island Governor calling a halt to
the construction by the navy and Samsung. This has so far been ignored. There is
a General Election in April and work has been accelerated - the main opposition
party has spoken out against the base construction.
The struggle continues. There are so many wonderful people involved - here
are just a few:
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. He began a second hunger strike after his arrest in January. This gentle,
holy man 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.” He was told to stop the fast on March 15, the 38th day, as
his health had deteriorated considerably. He did so and has begun to feed
himself with water gruel. Previous to this he had stopped taking in even water
and salt since the blasting of the rocks was started. However, his health was
very fragile and the people of Gangjeong village were glad he has taken food
again. Nobody wants him to die.
Mayor Kang Dong-Kyung a tangerine farmer has been imprisoned
and injured by police as he questioned the legality of a huge crane (250 tons)
that was being set up in violation of local law. Signed up to "Mayor's for
Peace" while in prison.
Father Moon a much loved Catholic
priest, passionate speaker and active campaigner against military bases moved to
Gagjeong Village to join the protest.Arrested an imprisoned a
number of times he remains an energetic and powerful force.
Sung-Hee Choi a board member of
the Global Network Against Weapons ad Nuclear Power in Space has also been
imprisoned a number of times and has helped organise and support the villagers
for a long time.
Benjamin Monet - from France
joined the struggle with love and energy. Excellent organiser and activist.
Deported for his dedication and active sevice.
Bruce Gagnon (seated in foreground
in picture below) - US activist and Coordinator of the Global Network, from
Maine (where Aegis missile defence destroyers are built). Through his blog
"Organizing Notes" Bruce has done so much to document and spread the word about
We can all still take action - even though the navy has
started to blast the Guroembi rocks - further destruction MUST be stopped. The
villagers are desperate.
Guroembi ...Save Gangjeong Village ... Save our world's heritage ... Stop US
plans for Missile Offence
If you can't actually go and support the villagers why not:
Island Governor (Mr. Woo Keun-Min, Governor, The Government of Jeju-do, RoK,
President (Mr. Lee Myung-Bak, President, Republic of Korea,
Defense Minister (Mr. Kim Kwan-Jin, Minister, Ministry of National Defense, RoK
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".
full bows of prayers for peace at Destruction Gate
Trident Ploughshares member Angie Zelter is supporting villagers in their
fight to stop the building of a US nuclear base on Jeju, the South Korean
“Island of Peace”. The new base just 300-miles from the Chinese mainland
will become a port for U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers fitted with the missile
defence systems that are key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack
planning. Gangjeong village and endangered soft-coral reefs will be
destroyed to build the base. Here is Angie’s first report.
at destruction gate
The villagers of Gangjeong have welcomed us with open arms. We are around 45
internationals from 12 different countries who have come in response to the
village’s invitation and plea for support. I have never been in a village so
united against a military base. There are flags and beautiful banners
everywhere declaring this a village for peace and life. Art work and murals
are along the road and now decorating the obscene wall going up around the
construction site which they call the destruction site. These celebrate the
natural beauty of the area especially the rare corals, dolphins and crabs in
the sea and the fresh water springs and rich agricultural way of life of the
area which is famous for its citrus fruit.
Today we took part in the Buddhist/Catholic prayer outside the main
destruction gate - 135 full bows of prayers for peace. Later back at the
village community centre, which is dominated by pictures of the nonviolent
struggle and a display of dolls of the major village characters engaged in
the resistance, we heard from the old people of the village - old men and
women of 80 plus years who talk of their sorrow at the destruction of their
coastline, which was so beautiful and is now being blasted to build a huge
naval base for the US to build yet another of their military bases
surrounding China. They also talk of the broken community life and divisions
in the family caused by the 5 years of resistance, where so many villagers
have been imprisoned. In the evening we heard from more villagers and
through song and dance of the resistance and the Mayor spoke to us as did a
former Governor of Jeju who was apologetic that he could do so little to
stop the destruction. Young and old come together most evenings to sing and
dance and plan their resistance together.
Yesterday we had been taken around the the Jeju April 3 Peace Park which
had been established as a means of compensating Jeju communities for the
damage and loss incurred in the April 3rd 1948 Incident. This history is
crucial to understanding the villagers present anger and resistance. In
brief, Jeju was fortified by the Japanese in the 2nd World War and 60,000
Jeju men were taken by force to Japan to work in their factories. When the
Japanese flag was eventually taken down after the war it was immediately
replaced by the US flag and the US military Government worked to ensure the
division of north from south Korea which eventually led to the Korean War
and continuing conflict. Jeju people refused to vote for this separation and
became known as the ’red island’. When Jeju people’s demonstrations were
halted by police killing 6 people and the following general strike was
cruelly put down, some young people were arrested and tortured and this led
to a small armed uprising which then enabled the US Military Government to
order a tough crackdown operation. 4 months later over one ninth of the
population had been killed (30,000 people), 84 villages razed to the ground
and a scorched earth policy over the whole island which thousands becoming
refugees in the mountains and which left the island traumatised. After this
they were not allowed to talk about the massacre and it was not until 2005
that the Government of Korea officially reported on it and President Roh
Mee-hyun apologised for the Korean Government’s part. (The US has never
apologised nor has it been officially investigated. ) The President then
declared the Island of Jeju an ’Island of Peace in order to sublimate the
hurts of the Jeju incident with a spirit of reconciliation and make it a
symbol of peace and human rights’ . The peace museum was then allowed to be
built to record the testimonies and detail the historical record.
But it was only 2 years later that a deal was made with the US to build a
military base on the island! The villagers are aware that if this base is
built that other military bases are likely to follow in the planned future
US war against China. They look at the ring of US bases around China and
note that China does not have even one military base outside of China. They
truly want peace and say you cannot have it by preparing for war. They want
the present area now being destroyed for the military to be transformed into
a peace park instead. Today we are holding a press conference outside the
main gate of the military construction site and then a group of
internationals will enter the base and try to reach the sacred Gureombi
rocky site which is being prepared for blasting. There is so much more to
tell you about but little time to spend at a computer ..........
27 February 2012
Second report from Gangjeong
By Angie Zelter
Angie Zelter is in Korea supporting the people of Ganjeong Village in their
struggle to stop the destruction of Jeju Island where the South Korean military
has begun construction of a naval base which will be the port for the US Navy’s
What an amazing day yesterday was . The villagers feel very supported and
happy with our contribution. We held a joint press conference at the main gate
that was closed for us and when none of the Korean, US, Samsung or others
involved in the building of the naval base were willing to come and talk to us
we proceeded to the destruction gate and demonstrated there. Then locals and
internationals paddled their canoes from the dock for a half hour and got to the
sacred rocks of Gureombi. While others were putting up flags I slowly walked
along the razor wire until I managed to find a place where I could wriggle
through the razor wire and get on the other side before the police could reach
me. The plan had been for as many of us as possible to do this but the razor
wire was rather intimidating. The villagers say the wire is illegal and the
rocks are all theirs.
Slowly making my way back to the others we were all together
only separated bythe wire. More and more villagers joined us and they took part
in a religious service and then held a meeting. We sang songs - the Korean
singing is wonderful but we added our own Swedish, Japanese and other songs. I
sang ’They say our lands are out of our hands - our lives and our futures are
out of our hands, this land is not yours to put boundaries around, we’ll stay
and get stronger our voices resound’ - which went down very well. The atmosphere
was fantastic and the sun came out for the first time. The volcanic rock is
quite an amazing ecosystem.
After an hour or so another international Benjie from France
managed to join me on the other side of the wire and after another few hours we
managed to find a way to get others in. We were all arrested but I refused to
give my real name calling myself ’Save Jeju’ and refused to accept or sign for a
fine and was eventually released without charge - maybe because I reminded the
police of their duties under international law not to support preparations for a
war of aggression or for basing nuclear weapons at this place! 12 internationals
(2 from UK, 4 from USA, I from France, I from Ireland, 1 from New Zealand and 2
from Sweden) and 10 Koreans were arrested in various ways and 20 taken to 2
police stations. Many of the villagers joined us outside the local police
station for more press work and a support vigil. The riot police were sent to
contain us as we blockaded the prison entrances. Young male Koreans have to
serve for 2 years and are often conscripted into the riot police and they seemed
to be practising instigating riots! It was a most interesting experience. There
was singing and dancing and random police snatches and some of the village
singers were also arrested plus their gongs and drums. But we maintained a
highly visible and sometimes noisy protest until everyone was released and we
managed to negotiate for all the banners and instruments to be returned.
I must say how absolutely impressed I am by the organisation of
this village’s resistance. They have the support of the majority of the village
and not only did they manage to ferry even non canoe paddlers out to the rocks,
but provided hot food and drink (delicious!) at the rocks and outside the police
station. It was when the mattresses and blankets appeared and the candles were
lit that the most violent riot police charge happened!! Some of them screamed
abuse back and swore at the police (there is a different mode of protest here!)
and some of us sang and sat down - our different methods merged well. Local
supportive lawyers helped out. I am now off to Jeju City for yet another protest
- press conference. Please ring or email the US and Korean Embassies and ask
them to stop the blasting of the Gureombi Rocks for a military base. The
villagers want a peace park not a war base. Bruce from global Network has been
writing his blog and there are videos too - see
28 February 2012
Third report from Gangjeong
By Angie Zelter
Yesterday we internationals went into Jeju City for a press conference so
that the Mayor of Gangjeong could explain the situation and internationals could
make statements as to why they were supporting the villagers struggle against
war and for peace.
We then went to City Hall and the Global Network folk presented a letter to
to the Governor of Jeju - you can see the letter at the end of this report. We
held banners outside while the letter was delivered. A local supporter in the
city then treated us to a wonderful lunch. The restaurant owner often goes to
the village with food donations and is one of many Jeju Island supporters. As we
were traveling back to Gangjeong we learned what a small place the island is -
only around half a million people - many people being related or having gone to
school together - and this means that local pressure can be applied even to the
police. Maybe this is why there have been 6 changes of police chiefs in the last
Over 1000 mainland police were drafted in last August/September
last year and this is deeply worrying as mainland police have not been sent to
Jeju since the 1948 massacre when they were implicated in the many tortures that
were carried out. The pressure is definitely increasing as the resistance has
grown and even though the last Jeju Island police chief had more than 100
villagers arrested in the last couple of months this has been seen as too
lenient. Only 4 days ago he was replaced by a mainland police man from the riot
police unit. This was after the President of South Korea stated that the naval
base project must continue. There are elections this April for the National
Assembly and we are informed that it is likely that opposition groups will get
in and they have all pledged to review the project.
arriving back to the village we went straight to the port as we were told the
police had been preventing locals from taking canoes out to the Gureombi rocks
to pray and four villagers including Mr. Cho Kyung-Chul (Co-vice mayor), Mr. Kim
Gab- Deuk (a Village elder) and Mr. Kim Young- Woo and Mr. Kim Young-Sam had all
been arrested. (A vigil is tasking place at the police station as I write). For
more details, the facebook named No Naval Base on Jeju is reliable.
After taking a few pictures and handing my coat and boots to
Miki (my Japanese friend) I grabbed a life-jacket and behind the backs of the
police entered the water - it was not as cold as I had expected, luckily - and
swam out to great cheers. This is something the local protesters often do but it
was encouraging for them to see an international resisting too and this is what
we are here for - to give encouragement to the locals who are tired out after 5
years of intense opposition.
Benjie soon joined me and he climbed onto some nearby tetra-pods
(as the huge concrete blocks are called) while I went through the port entrance
managing to avoid the police boats by keeping close to the rocks. The
life-jacket enabled me to rest from time to time and after about half an hour I
came across 2 local activists in their canoes who had been there a while and
were determined to spend the night on the rocks. They took me a little further
by canoe and I then continued on land around the razor wire being followed at
all times by 3 or 4 riot police which meant I could not crawl through as before.
I had a chance to enjoy the star fish, crabs, and fish in the
rock pools and the diving birds and also the many springs of fresh water that
the area is famous for - protesting always has these special moments! A little
later I saw a navy diver emerge from the water with a measuring tape - we think
this must be preparations for further blasting.
Making my way back after a few hours I found Dr Song Kang Ho
with a canoe. He is a strong and committed protester and features in the film
you can see
here. He offered me a lift back to the dock and said how much he and the
village appreciated what I was doing and how it is energizing them. He said I
was very brave - I certainly do not feel that way as it is much easier for
internationals than for locals. But the genuine appreciation of the villagers
has already made my stay here worthwhile and I thank all of you who have
contributed and made this possible.
As we arrived back in the port we could see many canoes being
held by police on their boats. I asked the Doctor to take me to the side of a
police launch and I clambered clumsily aboard (I know I really need to lose some
weight!) and went across to the policeman hanging on to a paddle and preventing
the canoe from getting away. I asked him to stop preventing the peaceful protest
and when he did not I started gently undoing his fingers and talking about the
issues. Many of the police understand English. Another policeman hauled me off
but I told him I was peaceful and smiled and he soon let me go and I quickly
climbed up on the top of the cabin amid shouts to get down. I refused and kept
clinging on to the railings until they had let the canoes go and then I agreed
to get down and quickly jumped in the water again and swam ashore.
By this time I was shivering violently with the cold and it was
getting dark, so went for a hot bath and sleep. I was exhausted. Today I am
catching up on emails as the rest of the internationals go back home. I am glad
I am free enough to be able to stay. Miki, will soon arrive back here to give me
news of her visit to the prison in Jeju City where Prof. Yang Yoon-mo (who was
arrested in December last year) is on his 20th day of hunger strike. Everyone is
very worried about his health as he is still weakened by his previous 70 day
hunger strike only last year. The repression is getting worse and outside
observers and activists are needed. If you know of anyone who can come and join
in the actions or as human rights observers then please let me know. Any letters
that you can write to the US and South Korean Embassies in London would also be
We are peace activists from many different countries attending
the International Peace Conference which was held in Gangjeong village and the
4.3 Peace Museum. We are deeply concerned with the series of incidents surround
the naval base issue. We urge you to act decisively and stop the construction.
We were shocked to see so many errors found by the Technical
Verification Committee of of Jeju Naval Base/Military-Civil Compound Tourism
Port. Given the results of the Technical Verification Report, it was clear that
the lay-out of the Base was NOT designed to serve a dual purpose despite the
Navy’s original proposal. However, the report is missing the critical and
rational conclusion, which is re-evaluation of the entire project. This fact
alone should be enough to stop the illegal construction. On February 22nd
President Lee, Myeong-Bak made it clear during a press conference that the
construction of base will continue no matter what. Immediately follwoing the
press conference, relevant vice-Ministers held a meeting and discussed how to
restart the base construction. Once again we were shocked to hear this news. The
most important obligation for the ministers of government is to protect people’s
lives and property and to secure the public order and justice. But the decision
made by the high government officials completely goes against their
. On February 23rd Bruce Cumings, the chair-professor at the
University of Chicago in United States said the following, “If war breaks out
between China-and the U.S. over Taiwan, the U.S. will likely use Jeju Naval Base
for the war. This means that China will likely attack Korea in reponse. This
scenario is very dangerous. Obama has withdrawn U.S. troops out of Iraq, but the
U.S. is still concentrating its force in Pacific. This is ultimately related to
China.” He emphasized that Jeju Naval Base will be used as part of U.S. war
strategies to defeat China. We are all in complete agreement with Prof.
Cumings’s opinion, and we would like to express our concerns over the Naval Base
Dear Governor, We are also aware of the fact that the Jeju
municipal court found guilty and sentenced Father Moon, Jeong-Hyeon and 3 other
clergy members on Feb. 24. Since last April more than 220 villagers, including
peace activists, have been arrested and 15 have been imprisoned for peacefully
protesting. The movie critic, Yang, Yoon-Mo has initiated his second indefinite
hunger strike within a year, a potentially deadly affair. All of these events
gravely disturb us. We believe that the construction of naval base, which
doesn’t receive any support from Gangjeong villagers and Korean citizens, will
ultimately end up failing and will only leave many side-effects behind. Many
military base construction sites around the world are a testament to this.
Governor Woo, You can stop the illegal construction of Jeju
Naval Base by making decision to re-evaluate the Navy’s original proposal. We
firmly believe that Gangjeong villagers’ peaceful lives and the pristine nature
of Jeju deserve to be protected. Building the naval base does not ensure the
security of both Jeju and South Korea. Korean peninsula is becoming potentially
one of the largest “powder kegs” in the world. Let us reverse the course that we
are presently on, away from war and insecurity, and let Jeju represent a
transition to disarmament and peace.
Once again, we urge you to make courageous decision to call
re-evaluation of the original plan and stop illegal construction of Jeju Naval
We wish you and your family the best of health.
Signed on the 27th February 2012 by
Bruce Gagnon (US) Coordinator of Global Network against
Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space;
Dave Webb (UK) Convener of Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in
Atsushi Fujioka (Japan) Board Member of Global Network against Weapons and
Nuclear Power in Space;
Mary Beth Sullivan (US) Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in
Denis Apel (US) Campaigner against the missions of Vandenberg Air Force Base,
Oh Kwang Hyun (Korean resident in Japan) Priest of Protestant Church, Osaka;
Mariko Kuroki (Japan) Network Cosmopolitan, Japan; Natasha Mayers (US)
Artist/Co-founder of the Union of Maine Visual Artists;
Angie Zelter (UK) Peace & Environmental Campaigner/founder of International
Women’s Peace Service;
Kiyoko Matsuno (Japan) Japanese citizen in solidarity with the Gangjeong
On behalf of all the 28 participants present in the Jeju International Peace
Conference, Feb 24-26, 2012.
16 March 2012
Report on Peace Confrerence at Gangjeong Village
By Catherine Christie (missionary in Seoul)
Members of Amnesty G48 travelled down to Jeju in
late February to attend the Jeju International Peace Conference. Following the
conference, we learned more about the nonviolent struggle of the local villagers
against the naval base construction taking place in their backyard. Following
the scheduled conference activities, some of our members joined the protestors
as individuals. Two such members share their reflections here.
12 people from mainland Korea (mostly Seoul) and affiliated with the Seoul
Amnesty G48 group attended the Jeju International Peace Conference March 24-26,
which was also attended by 15 members of Global Network against Weapons and
Nuclear Power in Space from US, England, Sweden, India and Japan.
This was my third visit to Gangjeong for which I consider myself truly
blessed. Each time I have gone has been both inspiration and unsettling.
5 of us arrived on Friday evening, missing many of the talks given at the 4.3
Peace Park during Friday. We arrived at Minbak Seobu, the others came from the
conference, and as we began to get to know each other, Benji (of the Village
International Team) came to tell us the Global Network group were just having a
strategy meeting, and inviting Pat and I (as the Elders of our group) to sit
with them. These people are all experienced activists, used to confronting the
military-industrial powers and demonstrating the moral bankruptcy of governments
that support the military-industrial powers against their own people,
communities and life and peace in the world. These people we were sitting with
were in Gangjeong to carry out a visible action, and arrest is an expected
outcome, even welcome as it is newsworthy. That night they brainstormed ideas
and sketched out the outline of the Sunday action.
Saturday morning there was a session at the Village Hall, presentations by
three international presenters and then discussion with villagers about the
resistance. We broke at 11:30 to meet the Catholic priests at the construction
gate where they had finished Mass but were performing 153 bows, which the
Koreans call deep bows, but are full prostrations. Luckily for us, we arrived
when they were at about 120, so we only had 30 to do. It is a very powerful
emotional/spiritual experience. Back to the Village Hall on shaky legs for a
delicious lunch, then met for trip around the village.
We began at the eastern shore beyond the fencing. Oh, so much barbed wire –
no, razor wire – rolls and rolls of it. Just where the trees and the rocks meet
is the place where the community gathers to greet the ancestors. We had a
chance to experience that action, and the words of a Sweet Honey in the Rock
song came to me, “We are the breath of the ancestors”. Each step from eastern
shore to the harbor in the west was significant, as we saw walls, concrete
structures, destructive machinery, but also hope, wonderful murals, the garden
in the Peace Park, the beautiful eternal sea.
Evening vigil – every evening the villagers gather. It is amazing,
inspirational, fun. Speeches, singing, dancing. Mayor Kang Dong Kyun received
an award on behalf of the village presented by Dave Webb of Global Network for
their work for peace.
Back to minbak for strategy meeting. Two groups would attempt to get to
Gureombi, one by land through or under the fence, the other by kayak. They
would breach the wire, maybe cut it. I was not going to go. Why? I live here,
but in a month I am going to Canada for an extended time away, and did not want
to jeopardize being allowed back into the country. I hadn’t talked to anyone
about what might be possible implications in that way. Therefore, when someone
asked who would keep a list of names and keep track of the people, be
responsible for possibly making contacts with outside world, I was very glad to
Sunday – there was going to be Mass on Gureombi at 7 a.m. I was at the
harbour at 6:30, but the Mass was canceled due to waves. I was disappointed.
In August I had worshipped on Gureombi, and maybe I will not again. (No, as we
sang, “deep in my heart, I do believe, Gureombi
will be free one day”)
Sunday at 10 – Press conference at construction (destruction) gate. Mary
Beth Sullivan and her heart-felt grief at militarization that threatens
community in so many places throughout the world, Toshio Takahashi who brought
his grandson’s Charlie Brown Friendship towel to symbolize making the world safe
for the coming generations, Dave Webb’s firm request to hold the Global Network
annual meeting on Gureombi. When no one responded to his request, a march to
the main gate where we pounded and demanded entry. No one came, but we formed
to sing and encourage each other. May I share two songs I hadn’t heard in many
years? Thanks, Agneta and Angie.
“You can forbid almost anything, but you can’t forbid me to think. You
can’t forbid the sun to shine, and you can’t close my mouth when I sing”
Other verses: “forbid the grass to grow, the rain to fall, my tears to fall”
“You say this land is out of bounds, our lives and our futures beyond our
command. This land isn’t yours to put boundaries around. We’ll stand and get
stronger, our voices resound”
A few minutes of futile conversation with a police representative, and then
the groups started off. A few of us from Seoul, and some of the Japanese
delegates gathered on the wharf after seeing the kayakers off. We had
binoculars to watch what was taking place on Gureombi. We watched and watched
for the land team, and then suddenly, they were also at the launch ramp and the
kayaks were coming back to meet them. It was much later we found out what
happened. Our role for much of the time was to encourage the kayakers, who had
heavy swells to go through, and were making trip after trip. We would shout
encouragement to them and they would call back to us.
We saw the police presence ebb and flow. We watched Mass celebrated and
meeting held, and then we saw the breach of the wire and that some were taken by
the police, and the kayaks started back at full speed. We raced to the launch
ramp to meet them. I received a phone call from Tom and was able to tell him
the Minbyun lawyer was on the way to the police station to meet them. As soon as
all the internationals were back, we piled in a van which took us to Sogwipo
Police Station, and were met by a solid line of police across the entrance. But
we settled on the pavement in front of them, while the International team
leaders sought information. The first line of police with shields were replaced
by a second with chest and arm protectors, and a third with helmets as well.
Gulp! Preparing for something!
My mind was full of memories of August, when I visited Gangjeong the first
time. During that day someone from the village had been arrested and the
candlelight vigil had been held in front of the police station, where we were
sitting. Would they again?
Well, the good food preparation team from Gangjeong arrived with a wonderful
meal which they set out by the sidewalk and we feasted. Then more arrived, and
candles. Ah yes. But that time, the police had all been behind the fence –
this time they were very aggressive. Suddenly our banners were being stomped
on, the police were pushing forward and we had to scramble to get the food pots
up on the sidewalk, candles were scattered. We did our best, we tried to sing,
but the police invaded the sidewalk as well, and started arresting Korean
participants. I texted some people in Seoul to tell them what was going on.
It was very cold and frightening. However, about 10:00 the word came the
prisoners were being released, and soon the four internationals and two of the
Koreans came out (the other 5 had been taken to Jeju City station). We found
out they had not expected the group to be there waiting, so it was a jubilant
greeting. I phoned Sung Hee at Jeju City, the other group had also been
released and were on their way home.
Later we met for debriefing at the minbak – all most exhausted and
emotionally drained, but determined. We listened to Sung Hee setting out the
future dangers – the drainage work is nearly done, the permit for dynamiting
will be applied for – it should be two weeks before it is approved – and the
whole process of blasting beautiful Gureombi will take a total time of 6
months. The dynamite is already purchased; the team knows where it is being
We agreed to work together to create an International Week of Action for
September 6-15, when the International Union for Conservation of Nature is
holding a major convention just a few minutes away from Gangjeong.
The next morning, with hearts weighted with fears for our friends, the
internationals began to leave.
Deep and heartfelt thanks to the village leaders and elders who welcomed us,
to the International Team who planned such an event, to the hospitality of the
wonderful meal brigade and all the villagers, to all the brave resisters, and to
the Spirit of Resistance that strengthens you all.
Protest on Gureombi
By Pat Cunningham
I just had the most amazing experience this past weekend! I attended the 20th
annual Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in
Gangjeong, Jeju Island!
A number of peace activists from Britain including Angie Zelter (Britain) who
is nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Bruce Gagnon (USA) and Dave Webb
(Britain), the chair of the Global Network were among the 28 international
activists in attendance numbering around 70 in total. The incredible energy
coupled with the spirit of peaceful resistance that the international visitors
brought reassured the villagers that their struggle to reclaim Gangjeong from
the war machine was not just their own separate, isolated struggle but was the
struggle of all concerned global citizens! The extraordinary spirit of the
villagers has left an indelible impression. The hospitality and warm welcome
afforded to all to rally to this cause was extraordinary-each night there was a
candle light vigil interspersed with song, dance and words of hope and
encouragement assuring the villagers all the while that they were not alone in
their struggle against the might of this military machine. On the contrary we
would remain united in peaceful resistance until such time that this madness
The Global network conference was followed by a protest and direct action
resulting in the arrest and detention of 20 Korean and International peace
activists! 11 international activists including myself were released without
charge after a 6-7 hour investigation! Many who attended the conference
participated in this direct action hoping to strike a small blow at the heart of
increasing militarization in the Asia Pacific Region and around the
world-approx.1000 US bases worldwide and counting!! We were reminded that the
building of the base in this once peaceful village of Gangjeong is part of a
wider geopolitical strategy on the part of the US government of encircling China
and Russia with Aegis destroyers carrying missile ‘defense’ systems causing much
alarm and concern to all. We were told that Gangjeong is at the heart of the
struggle for world peace and this was illustrated in a very significant way by
the attendance of so many peace activists from around the world.
We witnessed first hand the already devastating effects the construction of
the base is having in terms of dividing the once close knit community, driving a
wedge between families, onetime friends and neighbours! The concrete jungle that
the coastline has become with concrete casings, tetra pods, earth moving
equipment and cranes scattered across the beautiful landscape is a dreadful
eyesore causing one to ponder the devastation that has already resulted.
However, the most frightening scenario is that if the blast of the Gureombi rock
(an area roughly 800m long and 150 m wide) proceeds as planned over the next few
weeks the resulting toxic pollution despite efforts to contain it will
undoubtedly cause untold damage to the soft coral reef and marine life off the
coastline. It could possibly render to extinction the already rare species of
red feet crab and destroying the habitat and playground of the ‘pink nosed’
dolphin! The rock of Gureombi has sacred significance for the villagers as it is
a ‘living rock’ and therefore intimately tied up with their identity as a
village people – a place where people from the 400 year old village used to
celebrate their ceremonial rites. ‘Gangjeong is Gureombi’ we were told more than
once! Divisions in the community coupled with the ongoing daily tensions that
the villagers have been subjected to are tearing away at the fabric of this once
close knit community meaning that the people have been unable to conduct their
ceremonial rites for five years now.
The celebration of Mass on the rock has been a regular feature of the
resistance. It was celebrated as normal that Sunday afternoon although with a
difference. This time a major feature was the presence of many members of the
Global Network and other international activists among the many local villagers
who made the 25 min trip by kayak. Entrance from land had been cut off despite
the best efforts of the designated land group. Two activists- Angie Zelter
(Britain) and Benjamin Monnet (France) had already breached the razor wire fence
and were ‘waiting’ inside closely monitored by numerous police officers.
The Mass on the gurombi rock led by Fr. Moon on the afternoon sought to bring
hope and determination to the spirit of peaceful resistance among all those in
attendance. Angie Zelter spoke incredibly movingly from across the razor wire
and addressing the crowd she mentioned the incredible irony of how governments
in addressing the security needs of their people only think about ramping up
their so-called military ‘defenses’ increasing military expenditure and in
ratcheting up military tension ultimately leaves no prospect of providing real
security which can only be found in people’s access to healthy food, water,
medial care and education. She spoke about how she was able to exploit the
weakness in the razor wire allowing her to gain access which was her right. One
could get the feeling that she was calling on all of us to be brave and not
allow this illegal razor wire fencing deny our right of access to this public
area. I felt buoyed and fired up by her call.
It was extraordinary to see how life giving and hopeful the celebration was
on that Sunday afternoon to numerous people gathered from around the world –
many faith traditions and none, many people of faith and no religion all
gathered together under the one cause-all singing from the same hymn sheet
calling on the Korean and US governments to stop this destruction. We were
singing as concerned global citizens seeking to live in peace without the
constant threat of war hanging over our heads. It is heartbreaking to see this
beautiful place being desecrated but we found hope from the spirit of the
celebration and proceeded to make our move which saw 16 in total breach the
fence. We then proceeded in determined fashion buoyed by reserves of energy
received from the ‘celebration’ on the rock in following Angie Zelter and a
French activist. Soon we ended up being arrested and being carted away to the
police station-a significant victory for the struggle in the face of the
We also poignantly remembered during the celebration Professor Yang Yoon Mo
who is into his 23nd day of hunger strike. His memory was at the
forefront of my mind. He is determined to stick to his promise to come off all
salt and water if the blasting of the rock is initiated. It is therefore vital
that as peace activists we strengthen our alliances with peace loving people
around the world in ensuring we do what we can to prevent a calamitous situation
from arising! Peace!