Gangjeong is a small, quiet village of 1,900 residents on Jeju Island. The area has a lot of natural beauty and scenery. There is a UNESCO-designated biosphere preserve, Gurumbi, the only volcanic broad and flat rock in South Korea, which is one kilometre long beside the sea, and the Route 7 of the Ole' trekking course, which is a popular walking tour of Jeju Island.
However, Gangjeong village was chosen as a final candidate town for a naval base four years ago. It was reported that the residents resolved to try to attract the base, but that is not the case. The extraordinary general assembly met to hear about naval bases in general, but it was held only three days after the announcement and only 87 people attended the assembly. Moreover, the item was actually changed to hosting the naval base in the assembly and was decided by applause.
Since the South Korean government and the Ministry of National Defence did not provide a clear blueprint for the base, the mistrusts and antagonism have greatly intensified among the residents of the Gangjeong village. The issue has completely devastated people's lives, and the calm and peaceful community quickly collapsed.
Over the years, the fight to save Gangjeong continues, and the government – together with Samsung and Daelim, the construction companies for the naval base - are still pushing ahead with the plan to blast the Gurumbi rock. Police officers have been placed at every street corner in the village and are checking the people under the pretext of a crackdown on drunk driving, which has never happened before.
Despite the government and the Ministry of National Defence explaining that we need to strengthen defence capabilities to control the sea, judging from a variety of evidence, it's highly likely that Jeju Island will become the centre of a dispute between the US and China. In that sense, the naval base will undermine national defence rather than strengthen it. Jeju Island is of vital strategic importance for North-East Asia, being situated of between Russia, China and Japan. According to the Mutual Defence Treaty and the Status of Forces Agreement between Korea and US, the US army is free to use military facilities, airbase, port, etc in South Korea without notice. Furthermore, this is the base the Aegis ships can be anchored where they play a pivotal role in the US's Missile Defence plans, so its quite probable the base in Jeju would be used as an outpost for keeping China in check.
Now, many civic, peace, and religious groups and individuals in Jeju and in mainland Korea, including Seoul, are joining the campaign against the naval base in Jeju Island. Groups from the mainland focus more on raising public awareness about the issue, joining the Jeju protests from time to time. The residents, NGOs in Jeju, and people who moved to Gangjeong in order to join this movement are campaigning in a daily basis there. The residents and the NGOs form a consultative group and combine their ideas, strategies and vision.
The short-term goal of this movement is to stop blasting the Gurumbi rock. While groups in Seoul and other cities campaign to let people know the present situation and lobby the Congress, the NGOs and people in Gangjeong try to actually stop the blasting. They blow a siren whenever Samsung and Daelim come to the village entrance, then everybody drops what they are doing and gets together at the site. Since the beginning of the blasting operations in early October, many NGOs and the Jeju local government have criticised this operation, but the government turned a deaf ear to everybody and threw people in jail at random.
The government exercised its power from the mainland to enforce the construction. This was the first time since Jeju April 3rd Massacre. 63 years ago, Jeju Island was branded as a “communist” island, and more than 30,000 people - which was 10% of the people in Jeju at that time - were massacred. The government denounced the residents and peace activists as people who blindly follow North Korea, and mobilised police from the mainland to suppress the protest. It is natural for the islanders to remind 'another Jeju April 3rd Massacre.' The islanders seem unconcerned about this issue at first sight, but if you understand the history then you can take in the situation. The process of 'Dealing with the Past' is not quite finished yet, self-censorship – based on the notion that irritating those in power will not get people anywhere - and a xenophobic culture toward strangers are deeply rooted in the island's society, having big and small influences on islanders' lives. That's why peace activists from the mainland are very careful in approaching those problems and working together with the people in Gangjeong. The long and lonely struggle, the brutal crackdown and imprisonment by the police, and the continuing blasting, has left Jeju Island with an irreparable wound, but they have not given up hope. Now more than ever, it is vital for there to be warm solidarity to the Jeju campaign against the naval base.
There are many ways that YOU can assist the Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island. We need your support!
1. Consider making a donation to support our international outreach and public education efforts. Filing press releases, managing the website and administrative tasks require financial support. We need your help!
2. Call the Korean Embassy in your country and let them know that Jeju does not want a naval base! The militarization of Jeju Island runs contrary to its designation as the “Island of World Peace.”
3. If you live in the United States: Call the South Korean Embassy in Washington at 202-939-5600 to show your solidarity with the Gangjeong villagers on Jeju Island.
4. Write the South Korean Defense Attaché at firstname.lastname@example.org and demand a halt to construction of the naval base. Explain how a base that is directed at China is the beginning of a dangerous game that does not protect the future of South Korea - it undermines it.
5. Send a message to South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Han Duk Soo letting him know how building a navy base on Jeju will undermine tourism, threaten the fragile island environment and contribute to the destabilization of an already stressed security climate.
6. Email Jeju Island Governor Woo Keun Min and tell him how you feel about the military base that is being built on the pristine “Island of World Peace” - Demand a Gangejong village referendum so the residents voices can be heard email@example.com nine out of ten residents do not want this base.
7. Stay updated on the resistance by joining the "Save Jeju Island” and the “No Naval Base on Jeju!” Facebook page. Follow the most recent developments on Twitter at #savejejuisland and #gangjung - then re-post.
8. Spread the word about the inspiring resistance in Jeju! Contact the media about this story to raise their awareness about the struggle. Urge them to cover this important story of peace and environmental defense.
9. Sign the petition urging South Korean President Lee to stop construction of the military base! After signing please share the petition with your social network.
10. Send a message to the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) and tell them that the relics discovered on the naval base site should result in an immediate halt to construction.
Contact Person: Ms Hyosang Jo, Staff, CHA International Affairs Division Address: 139 Seonsaro, Seo-gu Daejeon 302-701 Korea (RK) Tel: +82 (42) 481-4738 | Fax: +82 (42) 481-4738 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org
11. Email or telephone Democratic members of the Korean National Assembly and tell them that they must stand publicly to demand that Gangjeong villagers are allowed to vote in a new referendum for or against the naval base. Click here for contact information
12. Email Amnesty International’s South East Asia chief and tell him that too many people have been imprisoned in this nonviolent resistance against an illegal military base. In one single week in 45 innocent villagers and activists were arrested. Some were beaten by police. Contact email@example.com
For more information go to: http://www.savejejuisland.org