When democracy does not quite work

You know what they say. When you are pointing a finger at somebody, three fingers are pointing back at you.

At the same time, I am getting a stale taste in my mouth when I hear what the villagers are saying about the process that brought the naval base to their little fishing town.

I hear them talking about the importance of democracy and how it wears of cloak of many colors. It swings in the wind and changes with the people who wears it. Sometimes it is the best we have and sometimes it does not quite work.

The Gangjeong activists speak of having been railroaded into accepting the construction of the naval bases and have not as a community been able to participate in a “fair and democractic way”.

This is the story:

In 2007 Yoon Tae Jun, the former village chief of Gangjeong announced that he had approved the building of the base and would make an application to the governor of Jeju. Normally a meeting is held in the village in about 7 days to discussed issues like this  but this time a vote was planned only 3 days later on April 26. Only 87 people participated and voted yes to the base. Which is the same as saying that about 10 % of the people represented Gangjeong village voted. Another meeting was promised but it never took place.

On May 14th, the governor Kim Tae Hwan announced that Ganjeong would get the base, followed by a very negative response from the villagers. A referendum took place about 4 months later, on August 20th, 2007 and according to Kang, the present mayor of Gangjeong 94 % of the villagers had their say at the ballots on the construction of the base.

725 people voted. 680 said no. 36 said yes and 9 votes were defective.

But the first vote was deemed valid. And today Gangjeong looks like this.

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