Jeju International Peace Conference story

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <The OhmyNews> on Feb. 26, 2012, reporting the ‘Jeju International Peace Conference’ held in Gangjung village, Jeju, the site of international interest due to unilateral construction of naval base. Although South Korean military is building the base, many suspect it will be a strategic foreign base for US navy instead as a part of containment strategy against China. 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.

“If I die here but can stop it” … “Please don’t give up; I will be with you”

The day Gangjung villagers met international peace activists

Reporter Ju-bin Lee 이주빈 (clubnip)

Participants of ‘Jeju International Peace Conference’ are shouting “NO NAVY BASE” after the opening ceremony in Feb. 24. ⓒ Ju-bin Lee 이주빈

In Feb. 25 at village ceremony hall, international peace activists promised international solidarity at a meeting with Gangjung villagers. ⓒ Ju-bin Lee 이주빈

Languages were different but it not a problem. They were serious but never stopped joking. Consolation and determination drew them ever closer together. They, in that way, became one in the name of ‘peace’.

In Feb. 25, international peace activists who had come to Jeju to participate in ‘Jeju International Peace Conference’ met Gangjung villagers who had been plagued by the Jeju naval base problem.

About 70 as a whole were at the ‘Meeting with Gangjung villagers’ event that took place from 10AM in Gangjung village ceremony hall. Those were Dave Webb, the Convener of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (Global Network), with other about 28 international peace activists and Dong-kyoon Kang, the head of  Gangjung village, with about 40 villagers.

Ms. Mi-kyoung Kang who introduced herself as ‘Jeju native’ said “I heard of an initiative to create new ‘Asia Alliance’ that will substitute NATO. But, rather than this kind of alliance, I hope all would share harmonism as a new spiritual movement.”

She explained “Harmonism is uniting man and nature together as one. And, here in Gangjung, all villagers are actually live like that as a part of the nature.”

Grandfather Seong-won Kang who is 81 this year revealed his psychological sufferings during the anti-naval base construction struggle in a placid voice “I would rather call for your help.”

Peace activists from Sweden are making a peace march in front of Jeju naval base construction site with a banner they made themselves. ⓒ Ju-bin Lee 이주빈

British peace activist Angie Zelter who decided to stay in Gangjung village for one month and fight with fellow villagers. She is paying a peace prayer in front of naval base construction site front gate. ⓒ Ju-bin Lee 이주빈

“We Gangjung villagers are fighting this anti-naval base fight for five years now and I guess about 70, 80% are patients. I, like others, cannot sleep at night. When I lie myself in bed, I keep thinking ‘if I kill myself and can stop this naval base, I will rather do that.’ Even when I do my farming job in the field everyday, my mind is still absorbed by the naval base issue…

Neighbors who were so close to each other are now shunning with each other though they live in the same place. They do not even share foods served to ancestors… This is not a human life. I hope you can give us some advice.”

Mary Beth Sullivan, a social welfare worker and an American peace activist, replied to grandfather Kang’s outcry.

“Regrettably, the solution should eventually come from within Gangjung village. Of course outsiders like social welfare workers of the community should think about the issue together but, at first, villagers should gather together and start to talk about what could be done to recover broken community.

Right now might not be an apposite time but villagers who are split into pros or cons on naval base issue should start seeing each other to heal at some time. Individual efforts to reconnect severed relationships and to lay bridge of relationship are necessary and community neighbors should help them.”

British peace activist Angie Zelter who is famous for her nuclear disarmament activity consoled villagers “I will stay in Gangjung village for a month with you. If you are suppressed, I will also be suppressed and, if you are put into jail, I will be put into jail too.”

International peace activists are doing ‘peace bows’ with Fr. Jeong-hyun Moon in front of naval base construction site front gate in Feb. 25. ⓒ Ju-bin Lee 이주빈

Bruce Gagnon, the coordinator of Global Network said “Victory comes from pains. My experience tells me that you are close to victory.” He said when government’s suppression intensified and the construction companies’ behavior roughened, that meant victory was just around the corner. He promised “We will support your struggle until the moment you win.”

J Narayana Rao, former Secretary of All India Peace and Solidarity Organization (AIPSO), suggested two things on the spot to strengthen the international solidarity for anti-naval base struggle at Gangjung village and got unanimous approval from participants.

First, international peace activists at ‘Jeju International Peace Conference’ decided to list up things they could do to support Gangjung fight from outside. And, they determined to designate ‘international movement day for resistance against naval base at Gangjung village’ frequently and unfold simultaneous protests all over the world.

At the consolation and determination by international peace activists, the head of Gangjung village Dong-kyoon Kang responded wholeheartedly “it is really grateful that you came from countries far far away to this small Gangjung village in Jeju. But it is even more grateful that you determined to fight together. Peace is the most beautiful when protected by peace itself.”

After meeting with Gangjung villagers, international peace activists marched toward the naval base construction site front gate and did ‘peace bow’ with Fr. Jeong-hyun Moon.

A peace activist from Japan, seeing a peace activist in Gangjung village Deulkkot (wild flower in Korean) protesting with a puppet banner she made herself, joined it by waving his cartoon character towel. ⓒ Ju-bin Lee 이주빈

Meanwhile, ‘Jeju International Peace Conference’ with a theme ‘Gangjung, the life and peace village; Jeju, the world peace island’ holds ‘international solidarity strategy convention for blocking Jeju naval base construction’ and ‘Global Network annual general assembly’ in Feb. 26 and ends.

Useful link


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