Stop Samsung! Stop destroying Mother Nature in Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island!

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Jungmin Choi

On 19 March, massive blasting of the Gureombi rock, the symbol of the campaign against the new naval base in South Korea's Jeju Island, began. There was blasting, of course, before that, but it's different now because while the blasting so far has been of the fields near the Gureombi rock to make the worksite for Caisson, now the blasting is of the Gureombi rock itself. This is the first time the Gureombi rock has been affected since Samsung C&T first pressed ahead with blasting. At the start of this new phase, Gangjeong villagers and peace activists resisted fiercely, but the police had organised protection for Samsung C&T and violently arrested protesters so that Samsung C&T could continue working. The Gangjeong Village Council strongly protested, saying that Samsung is a merchant of death, destroying natural heritage and building a war base, and appealed for various kinds of online and direct action against Samsung. From 17 March, there was a Catholic mass every day to urge the stopping of the blasting, and demanding the release of prisoners, this was in front of the Samsung C&T building and in support of the campaign against the Samsung credit card. In these ways, the nonviolent action aimed at Samsung C&T was designed to make the struggle more of a national issue.

Luckily, Andreas Speck from WRI was here for a movement building workshop with World Without War, so we could receive help from him. He showed us a variety of case studies from all over the world, and told us many stories so that we could then refer to them. The next morning, we headed to Samsung C&T. Our first impression of the Samsung C&T building was that it would not be easy to do an action. It is a thirty two story building, very modern-looking building in glass, and monolithic with even no doorknobs which was finished in 2008. It is also a technical and highly sophisticated building. The security guards of S1, one of the Samsung group subsidiaries, were arranged throughout the place and we could see they kept security very tight. When we just walked up and down the streets taking pictures, the guards approached us immediately and tried to deter us with their threatening appearance. We could not even enter the building. It would be difficult to climb the wall or block the main gate. After the field-trip, we had a discussion and decided to do the nonviolent action which was undetaken by the Spanish group Kem-Moc in a general meeting of BBVA bank.

On 29 March, I and other activists from World Without War and Green Korea United took part in a nonviolent action in front of the Samsung C&T building against Samsung C&T destroying the Gureombi rock. Three of us were the Gureombi rock wearing “My name is Gureombi” on its white cloth and the other three were Samsung C&T wearing a gown with the company’s logo on it and a mask. The scenario was that the Samsung C&T people pour the red water paint which was the symbol of the Gureombi rock’s bleeding onto the Gureombi people. A large sign with the company logo at the main gate of the Samsung C&T was the location of the action. We thought it’s not easy to even approach the sign because of the tight security so we prepared extra paint just in case. Sure enough, only two of us could reach the sign and the rest were held back by the guards as soon as they stepped out of the car, or were dragged away halfway to the destination. Fortunately, we were able to finish our action successfully with the extra paint but the guards were more violent than we thought so there was more focus on the repression than on our action. After the action, the six of us were taken to the police station and have been under investigation twice so far for violating the law on assembly and demonstration, damage to property, and obstruction of work. The case is still pending. Samsung C&T took evidence of property damage valued at wenty four million won (approx 21,100 USD) to the police. We attracted a lot of attention from the media, and Samsung C&T then reacted irritably by posting an article on their intranet entitled “Let me tell you the truth about the naval base on Jeju Island”.

As a result of the last general election, the ruling party won a narrow majority. After the election, the suppression of protest has been increased, so that at key sites such as Gangjeong village, people are not allowed to protest. However, villagers and peace-loving people try to maintain our resistance. We need your support!

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