Ground-lost ‘Jeju naval base’, mind-lost police authority

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <The OhmyNews> on Feb. 20, 2012, reporting the lives of Gangjung villagers who are suffering from the tyrannic misuse of police authority. All rights regarding this post stay with the author of the original article or with <The OhmyNews> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institutions / positions to their authentic ones as much as I can but, inevitably, some of them may be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link at the bottom.

Police play blind to illegal construction but continue illegal custody … “Police, hired contractors of Navy and Samsung?”

Reporter Ju-bin Lee 이주빈 (clubnip)

On 18th, police are pulling away Father Kyoo-hyun Moon who wanted to pray on the Goorumbi rock charging him for violating the Law of Assembly and Demonstration (LAD). As a public water surface, everyone can freely access the Goorumbi rock unless the Governor of Jeju-do Province bans it by designating and notifying it as a restricted area. However, police are illegally taking people away from here at their will. ⓒ Woo-ki Lee 이우기
‘Jeju naval base’ that navy wants to construct at Gangjung village, Jeju, is losing its ground as time goes by. But police are willfully exercising illegal custody and detention to villagers and activists causing fierce outcries like ‘are police hired contractors of Navy and Samsung?’

On 17th, ‘Technology Verification Committee for the Clearance of 150K-ton Cruise Ship’ under the Prime Minister’s Office approved a report saying “it is confirmed that the port design of Jeju naval base is inappropriate for the clearance of 150K-ton cruise ships.”

And the navy’s claim that Jeju naval base was designed as a ‘civil-military complex and a scenic port’ was officially rejected by this. So far, villagers and opposition parties including Democratic United Party (DUP) and Unified Progressive Party (UPP) have claimed that Jeju naval base is actually designed as a military port.

19 days of the Verification Committee revealed all the problems of Jeju naval base

It is notable that just 19 days were enough for the Verification Committee (chairman Joon-soo Jeon) to disclose problems in four crucial items of port design: design wind speed, side wind pressure area, seaway normal line, and vessel simulation.

As soon as the design faults were confirmed, Gangjung villagers and opposition parties made an immediate announcement “civil-military complex port was just a deception to push forward the naval base construction” and demanded “to stop the construction based on a faulty design immediately.”

Prior to this, on 16th, DUP floor leader Jin-pyo Kim reminded that “in last year’s budget review, ruling and opposition parties agreed to spare only 4.9 billion KRW slashing all others from 132.7 billion KRW requested by the military.” It is unprecedented that 96.3% of national defense budget requested by the government is scrapped at national assembly.

Then, the floor leader Kim said “this is an order from national assembly not to proceed with the naval base construction at Gangjung village. And it is people’s order” and added “we will elect the immediate stop of construction and sweeping re-evaluation of it as our party policy in Apr. 11 general election.”

Si-min Rhyu, the joint leader of UPP, also said “the Jeju naval base construction that is underway now should stop immediately. Then, we need to discuss if another naval base should be constructed. Even if it turns out to be necessary, we should do it at a place where people want to host it or at a place where technically viable.”

Misuse of police authority … not a restricted area but detain people at will

On 18th, police, without any legal ground, are taking away a tourist who is sightseeing the Goorumbi rock for violating LAD. ⓒ Woo-ki Lee 이우기
As the Jeju naval base is losing more and more of the persuasive power and legitimacy, police are causing troubles by misusing their authority partially instead of impartial law enforcement.

On 18th when ‘the 4th Gangjung village peace fair’ was held, police arrested and took away 14 villagers and peace activists including catholic priests from the Goorumbi rock en mass. The reason police mentioned on the site was the violation of LAD.

But, at that evening, police released them all; because it was preposterous from the start that they took the people like Father Kyoo-hyeon Moon and other priests who had been preparing for a prayer or tourists who were sightseeing the Goorumbi rock or those who were singing and dancing on the rock away for LAD violation.

Although the Goorumbi rock is not legally an off-limit area, police had repeated the comedy of illegally arresting and taking people who had entered the rock away for reasons like obstruction of business until as late as a week ago.

The fact that the arrest and take-away is illegal was revealed by police’s own act; they did not (or could not) arrest a lawyer who entered the rock. The area around Goorumbi rock is a public water surface area whose jurisdiction resides on Jeju-do province. That is to say if the Governor of Jeju-do does not designate and notify this area as restricted, no one can block or restrain the access of it by any ground.

As the fact that they themselves had been breaking the law was disclosed in a publicly humiliation, police are issuing 20,000 KRW stickers to those approaching the Goorumbi rock at will for ‘trespassing’. But experts say this is also groundless; how an access to an area which is not restricted can be ‘trespassing’.

By their own account, Gangjung villagers count six times against 36 people of illegal arrest and take-away by police’s arbitrary interpretation of law. Police have apparently violated the legal bindings of arresting criminals in act this many times. Gangjung villagers are grinding “to surely file damage compensation lawsuits against police who illegally arrested people or those from construction company who helped them or policemen who ordered the illegal arrest.”

Gangjung villagers have good reasons to get angry like this. On last 13th, an incident broke out where about 20 priests, pastors, and believers who were coming out of the Goorumbi rock after a prayer were detained and threatened for two hours. When the religious people asked protection to police around, they shun away from the call.

Police protect .. employees of Samsung and Daerim, not villagers

Even contractors of the construction company sexually harassed a female believer. People asked police to arrest them, but police instead barricaded themselves against the people helping them run away. The whole incident was captured by an activist’s video clip.

Police once more barricaded themselves and ‘protected’ employees of Samsung and Daerim in the course of illegally disassembling the stage villagers had set up on the Goorumbi rock on 18th, the same day when they illegally took away people including Father Kyoo-hyeon Moon. If one wants to disassemble something someone else set up, he or she has to send a letter of notification first and then execute it following a court’s administrative execution by proxy warrant.

But, they skipped all the procedural legality. Police who should observe the law in the most strict sense are actually ‘protecting’ the illegal construction in a broad day light. Rather, the real face of police who curse, deride, or even punch with fists those protesting villagers or activists is vividly captured in numerous video clips.

Since May last year, Gangjung village has been marred by the tyrannic violence by law enforcement, something beyond those depicted in the movie <Dogani> or <Broken Arrow>. Villagers, deciding not to put up with unbearable misuse of police authority, filed for hearing inspections and actually filed complaints against a police official who had assaulted civilians. But, police did neither proceed with its own inspection nor investigate the official who was filed complaints for assaulting civilians. At Gangjung village, police are tarnishing their own legitimacy as a ‘public authority’.

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