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.

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

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Wave to the Chinese across the water!

If I go down to the harbor where the American-Korean naval base is being built. And stand on my toes, I can see a tiny bit of the Chinese mainland.

No, I am lying. I can’t see the mainland but it is really close. Only 300 miles.

Maritime security is one of the catch words that are floating around theses days. China and Japan are strengthening their marine military strategy and South Korea and the US want to keep up. But at a price.

The naval base built on Jeju alone was earmarked for 97.5 billion won ($7.8 million). “The investment in the naval ship sector is focusing on securing high-tech destroyers and submarines continually with an aim to improve capability of command of the sea around the Korean Peninsula as well as building up capability to perform landing operation”

The U.S. and South Korean government are expanding their military alliance, and if the naval base on Jeju Island is set up, the U.S. navy will use the base to monitor China’s naval power. Because of its close location to China, the naval base will primarily be a bulwark against Chinese expansion rather than defend against North Korea threat (for which the bases in Busan and Jinhae are better suited.)

Source

By ‘commanding the sea’ and talking about ‘Chinese expansion’ the idea is to keep South Korea and the so-called free western world safe. But Noam Chomsky and Matthew Hoey(and yes, the actor Robert Redford) are not the only ones being concerned that while the official jargon about building the naval base on Jeju island is security it will hardly go unnoticed by China. Seoul plans to dock Aegis-equipped destroyers at Jeju. These warships are the main military component of the U.S. missile defense system.

Just consider what would be the response from the US if China would build a naval base 300 miles from the American coast.

I took a look in Wikipedia. Just to make sure I got this right.

Naval armament race is an arms race during which two or more countries continuously construct ships consistently more powerful than the ships the other country built in the previous years. These races often end in wars

Meanwhile back at ranch. While the older activists keep up the peaceful resistance against the naval base new people arrive…

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More bows are made…

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More nuns are being monitored by the police…

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And the mayor of Gangjeong is again exercising the right of freedom of speech after being detained by the police…

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…and the US and Korea are getting deeper into the armament race, and taking the fishing village of Gangjeong with them.

Activism 101 – the importance of charging the batteries away from the gates

I have lost count of how many priest, ministers, academics, artists and other activists I have met who told me they have been to jail, are on probation, facing trials, have been abused and kicked around, been intimidated and threatened, have letters of complaint from the police and numerous fines to pay for ‘obstruction of business’.

A well know priest told me yesterday that he was concerned about the, often young, activists who live(literally)by the gate and confront the police several times a day. He senses that they are getting worn down and wishes a little rest for them. For both body and mind.

Some of the activists do take time out. And today my post will be short. If I understand things correctly I have been offered to go on a journey to visit an island to meet with a woman who takes photos of mermaids. How could I possibly refuse that?

–Peace out!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

IMG_5564The 100 bows for peace were made.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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We need to move all the junk.

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All the chairs.

IMG_5419And we need to move the people.

IMG_5421We need to do it now.

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—————

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.

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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.

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

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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.

New Year 2013 in Gangjeong village

The village is waiting for the final say on the budget for the construction of the American Naval base here in Jeju.

This morning was quite by the gates. The catholic mass went on at 11 with no police trying to interfere. How strange to be happy that a religious service can happen on the boardwalk on the opposite side from the base.

1000 prostration(bows)for peace was underway. Three Buddhist practitioners. Backdrop, the beautiful, huge orange orchards. Snowy fairy tale mountains. Strong winds. Bow down, stand up, hands in namaste.

Violence is not the way.

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