Daechoo-ri Incident

Disclaimer: The following is an unauthoritative totally personal translation of an Wikipedia article (in Korean) on ‘Daechoo-ri Incident’ which sheds very informative light on things going on in Gangjung village, Jeju-do (island) now regarding the construction of naval base in terms of attitudes shown by military (and government in general) as well as the way things unroll with the elapse of time as well as government’s level of involvement. The original article is covered by the Creative Commons license, the usual license for Wikipedia articles, and this post also follows the same license. The link to original Korean article can be located at the bottom.

Summary

Daechoo-ri Incident is a term that collectively includes a series of incidents between local residents, civil activists and Ministry of National Defense (MND) regarding the expansion and relocation of US Army (USA) 2nd Infantry Division and Yongsan base near the end of year 2008 to an area around Daechoo-ri, Paengsoung-eup, Pyoungtaek-si (city). In a broader sense, it indicates protests by local residents and civil activist groups and the clashes between civilians and the police force following the decision of USA base relocation in year 2004. In a narrower sense, it indicates a series of massive clashes sparked by the administrative execution on May 4, 2006 where the police and even military servicemen were mobilized.

A mural full of anti-US slogans on an exterior wall of Daechoo-ri agricultural cooperation warehouse

Outline

  • Date: May 4, 2006
  • Place: Daechoo elmentary school branch, Daechoo-ri, Pyoungtaek-si (city), Gyounggi-do (province)
  • Result: Daechoo branch was demolished and barbed-wire fences were set around the prospective relocation site. Civil activists continued protests until the total relocation of residents.
  • Civilian participants: About 1,000 civilians participated in the protest. (Daechoo-ri & Dodoo-ri residents, members of Pyoungtaek general measures committee and Pyoungtaek city residents committee, members of Pyoungtaek defender group etc.)
  • Government forces: 110 companies about 13,000 members of police riot squad, about 1,200 contractor employees, and about 2,000 army servicemen (!) were mobilized for protest suppression
  • Casualties: According to daily reports (May 5, 2006) of Gayounggi-do Fire and Disaster Center, 137 injuries (13 heavy injuries and 124 minor injuries) took place upon 32 riot squad members and 105 protesters on May 4 and transferred to 6 hospitals after on-site first-aid treatments.
  • Detentions: On May 4, 524 protesters were brought to police custody. Arrest warrants were filed for 32 and issued for 10 of them. On May 5, another 100 protesters were taken in to police custody. Arrest warrants were filed for 23 and issued for 6 of them.

Background

In August 2004, Republic of Korea Government (ROKG) and US Government (USG) agreed to relocate USA Yongsan base and 2nd Infantry Division to Pyoungtaek area and officially signed the agreement on October 28, 2004. Since the relocation supposed to incur huge expenses and require ratification from National Assembly (NA), ROKG submitted the ratification bill to NA on October 29, 2004 and NA ratified it on December 9, 2004. Since the whole expansion and relocation requires 3,490K pyoung (11,517K square meters or 2,846 acres) in Pyoungtaek area, 535 households (1,372 people) had to be relocated away. Following the ratification by NA, MND started land compensation. But protests and conflicts took place between Daechoo-ri and Dodoo-ri residents and MND due to the unilateral execution by MND and majority of Daechoo-ri and Dodoo-ri residents declined to hand over their lands to MND. At this, MND brought this issue to Central Land Expropriation Committee (CLEC) and CLEC passed the expropriation plan in November 2005. Finally, MND gained rights to take over the land ownership without original owners’ agreement by depositing land compensation fund to court. Starting from winter of 2005, MND forbade residents to farm the lands and clashes happened between residents who wanted to farm their lands and MND in 2006 spring. Residents banded together with local civil activist groups who opposed to the expansion and relocation plan of USA base.

Development

Remains of Daechoo elementary school branch after forced demolition

The row between MND and residents regarding farming got aggravated since March 15, 2006 by the full-fledged mobilization of police and contractor forces. On March 15, MND dug up the rice field where residents had already planted seeds by using excavators and contractor employees. Among Daechoo-ri and Dodoo-ri residents and civil activists who were blocking the dug-up, police took away 40 into custody and arrested 2 of them for the incident. Similar clash also broke out on April 7, which resulted in 31 custodies and 2 arrests. At the end of April, MND announced that it would tear down plastic/vinyl houses and facilities set up in Daechoo school branch and playground whose ownership has already been transferred to it. To stop this, about 1,000 residents, general measures committee members and Pyoungtaek city residents committee members started to watch over the Daechoo school branch from May 3 evening. On May 4, 4 AM, 110 companies about 13,000 members of police riot squad moved in to Daechoo school branch and started to take protesters away. Around 7 AM, Daechoo school branch was surrounded by police squad and dismantling of Daechoo school branch started right after the final protesters in the 2nd floor were taken away. They demolished not only the school building itself but also trees and facilities in the playground. At the same time, mobilized servicemen put barbed fences around the prospective USA base relocation site.

Through this forced execution, 524 out of about 1,000 civilians who gathered at Daechoo school branch were taken to custody and 137 (32 riot squad members and 105 protesters) received on-site first-aid treatments according to the record by Gyounggi-do Fire and Disaster Center. The total toll would reach about 200 ~ 300 including those who were not brought to hospitals by ambulances. For the forced execution, police riot squad 110 companies about 13,000 members, about 1,200 contractor employees, and about 3,000 servicemen were brought in.

Police looked for arrest warrants for 37 of those 524 and warrants were actually issued to 10 of them. The prosecution decided to arrest additional about 100 participants of the protest and announced that any further protests would be considered as a direct challenge to national government authority and would be prosecuted under a strict criterion.

Pyoungtaek general measures committee held a general people’s protest at Daechoo-ri denouncing the forced administrative execution on May 4, which resulted in another clash against the police and additional custodies of about 100.

After fencing the prospective relocation site to prevent residents from farming the land any more, MND set checkpoints at every entrance to the village and forbade access to Daechoo-ri or Dodoo-ri if the address in resident registration card was not any of them. Also, it brought excavators, contractor employees, and policemen into Daechoo-ri and Dodoo-ri to tear down some of the houses and actually started to demolish empty ones. At this day, 24 who opposed the tear-down were also taken away. According to the record by MND, about 1,000 civilians were taken into custody by police due to clashes between residents and government during the whole USA expansion, relocation process.

In January 2007, remaining residents of Daechoo-ri and Dodoo-ri started discussion about migration. Candle light vigils that started on September 1, 2004 ended for the last time on March 24, 2007 after 935 days and residents left their villages in April and moved into temporary facilities, which wrapped up the whole MND’s forced evacuation operation.

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