Following in Martin’s footsteps

As my time in Gangjoeng has come to an end  I walk away feeling grateful for having had the opportunity to meet people acting from a place of love, not hatred.

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Having met the ones who would rather go to prison than compromised their moral beliefs.

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Hung out with the SOS team. Frozen kayak rides, stubbornly working as monitors and guardians of the sea, coast line, animal life, corals and sea bed, all deeply affected by the construction.

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Been inspired by all these politicians, leaders, villagers, supporter. Activists in different coats.

And yesterday six people from the National assembly(belonging to the Progressive Democratic Party) came to the same gate. Held a press conference. Talked about not being let in to see the base. Despite having their permits in order.

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Many big and small efforts.

And all these people have at some point reacted and decided to act. Laws and regulations are made by people. Structures are created but can be changed if needed. Patters of state power can be challenges. Do not obey it you feel you shouldn’t. The pink sign below says just that; sometimes it is your obligation to stand by your beliefs and disobey.

And doing it from a place of love instead of hatred is a good start.

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No Pasarán!

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It is not a totally appropriate title on this blog entry. No Pasarán was one of the battle cries from the guerilla in the Spanish Civil War.

Still, No Passage is one of the messages ringing loud and clear through the movement against the Naval base in Gangjeong.

Yesterday the wind picked up and snow came down over the gureombi rock, the palm trees, orange groves and the press conference where Mayor Kang and other community leaders again raised the issue of the 70 day construction stop that legally is in effect but not respected. The main purpose of the conference though was to voice a strong opinion of distrust regarding the navy’s 3d naval simulation to assess if cruise ships will be able to enter the port safely. This is taking place today and tomorrow but is considered a right out lie.

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But consider this. The sales pitch to  the villagers to Gangjeong (and Jeju island for that matter)  was that the base would be a naval/civil(civilian base)where happy, rich tourists would come on these giant cruise liners.

Have you ever seen a one entry navy port, which main purpose is to protect South Korea and USA from the Red Enemy sitting in China; filled with American Marine soldiers, warships, a well-developed missile defence system mingle with…eh, tourists?

Gangjeong is an amazingly beautiful place. It has been considered as a candidate for the so-called new 7 wonders.

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And now the base is moving in. And life becomes harder in so many small and big ways. Fishing use to be easy.

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There use to be a beautiful view if one wanted to just hang for a while, be by the sea and look at Tiger island in a distance.

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But now war ships are moving in. Tetrapods high and low.

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And still.

Small islands of stubborn active resistance.

Save Our Seas, or the SOS team had their weekly waterday activity on Wednesday(the Chinese symbol for Wednesday is water).

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Some folks from the navy security unit decided they needed to come along and sent 14 of their finest divers to make sure no rebellious kayakers would be up to something disobedient.

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Then they all sailed for freedom.

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Kayaks were observed and followed from both side of the navy base but not harassed. Depending on how you see it.

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And made their way in the strong wind around the man-made orange boundary and disappeared in the mist, their tiny yellow flags barely visible.

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The Mermaid Advocacy Tour

As it turned out. I wasn’t completely wrong. And my Korean friends were not completely right about the mermaids.

The woman we went to see in lovely, lovely U-do island is known for her spectacular photos of the female Korean divers or haenyo. Here is an old photo of them, taken in the 70’s. Today they wear wetsuits but look very similar in their own way.

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The purpose of the tour was to relax and get away from the police and the gates for a while. One gets tired of battling it out and of thinking about the election, the 70 day ban on construction that is not listened to, the fines and court orders that are coming in. And the police surveillance van with a very visual camera staring right at the gate. It does not matter so much if they were actually in the van, the culture that I experience here is so built around us and them now that it seems more or less expected that they have the activists mapped out.

Anyhow.

While it was a vacation, the advocacy flyers were not far away in the car and were handed out when it seemed right. The yellow vest was on the driver. I came along as a friend and as it turned out, a token international who came to Korea to support and document the struggle. Which went ok even if I don’t speak Korean. We had coffee and orange marmelade sandwiches at the photographer’s traditional house on the island and talked about the naval base not being just a Gangjeong issue but a much bigger one. We met with the catholic priest and talked about other islands(like Okinawa)where there already are bases connecting the American defence to other islands and bases in the mainland of, for example South Korea. The cost of that. For the world. For the people coming after us.  And also what price people like the Haenyo are paying when the sea bed and the sea-shore, gureombi, is changed and off-limits where the base is being built.

And it not just because this is a traditional trade that is passed on in the families. It is not just because this is a job that brings in money by picking a variety of sea food, shells, sea weed. Or even because there is a traditional shaman faith in the community that ties them together with the sea and is often practices outside. It is not even because they now know that the local dolphin, red-handed crab and several types of hard coral are on the red alert list, being rare and are all in danger of being extinct due to the naval base.

It is all of these things. Things that are hard to put a finger or a price on. Things that the navy can’t pay their way out of when they buy off the women that can no longer use a part of the sea.