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.

IMG_5951

IMG_6099

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

IMG_5947

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.

IMG_5955

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.

IMG_6086

IMG_6087

IMG_6091

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.

IMG_5437

That’s the way we roll

IMG_5630

 

IMG_5627

 

There are many faces in the movement in Gangjeong. Some bring their own vehicles all the way to the gates. I met them but was not present during the previous night. This is how it was described.

 

On Jan. 8, members of the Seongdong Center for Independant Living visited Gangjeong, joining the peoples’ struggle to stop the illegal construction. They stayed all night in front of construction gates to block the construction vehicles.

A witness who watched the struggle of the disabled visitors, most of whom are women, testified that the police were embarrassed by their courageous and active protests. He also stated that the police were violent and violated their human rights. The police forcefully lifting their wheelchairs, encircled an each person, and detained them. During the process, many of the disabled women’s cries of pain and distress could be heard.
Source

Aegis – Guard of the Guardians Themselves

There are so many issues and causes to care about in the world.

Tigers going extinct, homeless folks, religiously motivated settlers in the West bank. And then there is world politics, armament races and wildly differently opinions, conclusions and analysis aimed at explaining how to keep the citizens of the world safe.

Issues that the villagers of Gangjeong have been forced to care about.

They have filed cases. They have sued. They have chained themselves to cars. They have lobbied and demonstrated. They have been beaten and put in jail. Been black listed and thrown out of convention centers and meetings. Arrested for refusing to leave when demonstrating quietly outside a SAMSUNG(one of the biggest construction companies on the base) owned hotel during a UN/ROK joint conference on disaster and nonproliferation in Jeju. The are still fighting for the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, adjacent to the proposed military port. They have been called trouble makers, communists and North Korea supporters.

Somebody hijacked their democratic process and their votes didn’t count when they said no to the naval base.

They even walked from Jeju up to Seoul in what turned into a 5000 person march. That is how much they care.

In addition, the main tourist bus driving from the airport in Jeju city to nearby Saegepo was re-routed so as not to expose the bus passengers to the demonstrations during the International Union for Conservation of Nature conference in 2011 and the participants were warned not to have any contact with the activists as they were dangerous. What actually happened at that conference is another story but basically the Korean government had, in exchange for a considerable amount of money, struck a deal with the organisation not to allow talks about the environmental consequences of the naval base construction. It became known and an unwelcome but unstoppable arena was created for the Gangjeong activists.

But this is is not a Gangjeong issue, this really does concern you. Wherever you are. And I will tell you why.

2011 the Obama administration announced a military strategic turn around, a whooping 60 percent of US military resources being shifting from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region in what is called the South Asian pivot. A new frontline of defence and the enemy has a new name. The WOM discourse has not completely gone to bed with the Bush camp but Red China is now the scary man of the mouth.

Still wondering why you should care? Well, a new battle field is in the making in one of the most heavily populated area in the world, with the US as a main actor. Regions and nation states are being courted and divided up according to the old cold war logic.

The United States already has 219 bases on foreign soil in the Asia-Pacific; by comparison, China has none. The Jeju base would augment the Aegis-equipped systems in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and the US colony of Guam. The Pentagon has also positioned Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems in Taiwan, Japan (where the United States has some ninety installations, plus about 47,000 troops on Okinawa) and in South Korea, which hosts more than 100 US facilities. Source

Many military analysts are saying it, the US naval and missile defence logic is morphing and sliding into the Asian region.

As far as Gangjeong goes, about 6000+ US/ROK navy personal are moving in if the construction goes as planned. And Aegis is coming with them.

They also bring:

2 submarines

20 large destroyers, equipped with the above mentioned sea-based Aegis ballistic defence system

2 aircraft carriers

What are we really talking about here? Well, there are numerous types of these warships. One type looks like this:

The AEGIS is an integrated combat naval weapons system which uses powerful computers and radars to track and guide weapons to destroy enemy targets. Japan already have three of them, as do Spain and Norway. And the US of course who had them first. Looking at the technique behind it, this is basically how it works:

The Aegis Combat System is controlled by an advanced, automatic detect-and-track, multi-function three-dimensional radar (the AN/SPY-1). Known as “the Shield of the Fleet”, the SPY high-powered  radar is able to perform search, tracking, and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a track capacity of well over 100 targets at more than 100 nautical miles (190 km).

The Aegis system communicates with the Standard missiles through a radio frequency (RF) uplink, but still requires the AN/SPG-62 radar for terminal guidance. This means that with proper scheduling of intercepts, a large number of targets can be engaged simultaneously.

In other words, this system is both able to track as well as engage a massive number of targets at the same time. Their radar systems work independently even though they are sometimes referred to as Aegis class cruisers.

Remember yesterdays blog entry. The simulation that was supposed to take place inside the base. Bringing cruise liners into the harbor. Not very likely.

The activists here tell me that submarines that are coming to town are armed with nuclear missiles.

The villagers may know this. Some do. But really. You don’t need to know the tech info. Exactly what kind of Destroyer is coming in or how the Aegis ballistic missile defense (ABMD)was started by President Reagan in the 80s and how it initially was supposed to be use in space.

What it comes down to is this, do we really want another place in the world massively invaded by war ships and missile systems? There are other ways to deal with conflict and fear, like an improved level of communication.

By the way, the blog title refers to the motto written in latin on the emblem. A guard for whom?

No Pasarán!

IMG_5962

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.

IMG_5958

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.

IMG_5314

IMG_5747

IMG_5236

IMG_4944

IMG_5297

IMG_5773

IMG_5778

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

IMG_5917

IMG_5918

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.

IMG_5843

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

IMG_5834

Construction and barbed wire.IMG_5821

IMG_5249

IMG_5828

IMG_5786

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).

IMG_5879

IMG_5877

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.

IMG_5870

Then they all sailed for freedom.

IMG_5900

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

IMG_5906

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.

IMG_5908

Make art Not war

It snowed when I walked down to the gate this morning. It snowed during mass and it snowed during the press conference held about the hurried naval base layout simulation that is said to take place today and tomorrow(with results to be presented on January 30th) and is most likely fake.

This week I have seen very few police and have been told it is because they are taking a national test.

People don’t leave the gate unattended anyway of course.

I wonder where they go to find rest and inspiration. And I wonder about why there is so much art. And very few, if any, scare tactic posters, posters of the consequences of war, war ships coming to kill etc. Instead I find this.

IMG_5847

IMG_5708

IMG_5732

IMG_5796

IMG_5783

IMG_5797

IMG_5844

IMG_4941

IMG_5266

IMG_5082

IMG_5141

IMG_5709

And a guy who made a flute from a plastic pipe.

IMG_5529

There is something in the way he walks

It is the small things that get to me. The young man hanging, as a last desperate measure, on the front grille of the construction truck the other day. Before being torn down by the riot police and hired security men.

IMG_5696And being violently thrown, pushed around and handles inside a detention circle.

IMG_5699Before it was all over for this round and the police left.

IMG_5697But the next time I see him. He is back at the gate. Doing bows for peace.

IMG_4959And I think of other young men that I have met. In other places. Other struggles. Who have chosen another, more violent route. And I think to myself, this is quite unique.

Then I went to mass. With two disobedient priest who have paid the price for opposing the base. Father Joseph and Father Mun Jeong-hyun. Being beaten by the police. Jail. That sort of thing.

IMG_5734

IMG_5737I look down. I look up. Father Joseph is missing.

No he is not missing. He is walking with the bread and blood of Christ down to the people blocking the gate. Here he is coming back. Walking through the traffic. Another day, another walk.

IMG_5740

IMG_5741People often ask me what they can do. For peace. Against violence. Ignorance. For other people.

Against military and political forces with a moist moral surface.

The answer is simple.

Do something. Do something you are good at. Something with a heart.

Write. Sing. Inspire people. Document. Analyze. Make it personal. Deliver the Eucharist in the street.  Go sit and talk and eat oranges at the gate of a naval base i Korea. But do something.

The watch dogs of Gangjeong

IMG_5526Today there were many watch dogs by the gates of the naval base.

Unification day. And it has been a hectic day.

But first. Two concepts that are hovering over the base.

Civil Disobedience (Resistance to civil government) Henry David Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences , and that they have a duty  to avoid allowing such acquiescence  to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.

Direct Action occurs when a group of people take an action which is intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue. This can include nonviolent and less often violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participants. Examples of direct action can include strikes, workplace occupation, political violence, nonviolent resistance, sabotage, property destruction, blockades etc.

My morning started with meeting this friendly Baptist minister from Seoul.

IMG_5532The things got less friendly.

IMG_5542

IMG_5544

IMG_5545The religious leader from Seoul was removed from the gate and the trucks could pass.

The police came en masse. They never seem far away and they probably aren’t either.

IMG_5533

And as the day went on….IMG_5540More people being lifted from in front of the gate and place inside so called detention circles.

IMG_5541

Then there was a big manifestation. The mayor spoke. Urging the goverment to listen to the National Assembly’s decision to halt construction for 70 days, starting from January 1st. Two supporting politicians from the democratic party were part of the demo in fron of the gate.

IMG_5567

There were plenty of photographs taken.IMG_5563And plenty of people in the manifestation.

IMG_5564The 100 bows for peace were made.

IMG_5593

IMG_5598There were many people visiting Gangjeong today. Maybe that is why the police decided to wait until the afternoon to open the gates again.

Things started to heat up. Activists gathered at the gates, the alarm went across the village. Police started lining up(first casually, then in a more tight formation) along the peace camp tents, making it difficult or impossible to leave or get to.

IMG_5640

IMG_5652IMG_5653

It got more and more hectic as more and more activist were moved into circles where they were surrounded by police.

IMG_5673

IMG_5674

And when you are inside a cicle many activist choose to just sit quietly.

IMG_5660When you are dragged from making your peace bows, your shoes often end up someplace else.

Hallo, is this the police?

An outsiders perspective on how things possibly went down this morning.

– Hallo, is this the police? I need your help.

– Yes, again.

– There are three people blocking the entrance to the gate. I know you have been here 7 times a day since 2007. Yes, that is 12 775 times but they are still here.

IMG_5399

I have trucks on the inside that need to get out.

IMG_5400

And there are trucks on the outside that need to get in.

IMG_5402

We need to move all the junk.

IMG_5410

All the chairs.

IMG_5419And we need to move the people.

IMG_5421We need to do it now.

IMG_5423

IMG_5427

IMG_5429

IMG_5430

IMG_5431

IMG_5431

IMG_5433

IMG_5441

IMG_5440

—————

This happens every hour during the day. And every second hour during the night. On an average. Persistance and determination like this is hard to find.

Many of the conscripts look very young. Many look a bit scared or at least confused. They come from the mainland and are circulated every 2-3 weeks. It is doubtful they know what is going on in front of the gates.

Police covering their faces is a thing I have rarely seen. It is not legal either. You, as a representative for the state force should identify yourself.

IMG_5418

You are also obliged to identify yourself when you are filming. In the name of security.

Some activists decide to open up a discussion about that.

IMG_5444

If you film me and don’t tell me who you are, I will cover my face.

IMG_5447

For more than 1825 days these activists have been practicing civil disobedience in the name of peace, determined to stop the building of the base and they are in good company.

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.

IMG_4985

IMG_4983

IMG_5256