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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Construction and barbed wire.IMG_5821

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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 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.

Gangjeong village – and the protest goes on

The activist in Gangjeong are a mixed bunch. They come in colorful hand sewn clothes.

IMG_5081They come in their official church garbs from the mainland, the island and abroad and move the church onto the street next to the base.

IMG_5225They protest alone. Resilient. Like this quaker man who kneels up and down the busy road outside of the base. Twice a day. Everyday. Dressed in the traditional white mourning clothes.

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He is mourning the death of four things:

  1. The death of the sovereignty of Korea
  2. The death of Human Rights
  3. The death of democracy
  4. The killing of the Gureombi rock

The Gureombi rock is a lava formation that can only be created under certain circumstances in rocky wetlands. It is found outside the village of Gangjeong and stretch 1,2 km further. It is a unique habitat in which fresh water ponds are formed often used by the traditional women divers to wash their catch. It is also considered sacred by many villagers.

Sometimes they let the message speak.

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Sometimes showing your face is important.

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And then we have the artists.

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And all the people in the wings, the fabric of a large support network. Cooking, providing free food, offering car rides et cetera.

IMG_5010These were the activists.

But Gangjeong is also a village torn apart.

There are people waiting to make profit from the building of the army base. People who are disturbed by the protest, annoyed at the attention it is given. Today even the shopping has become political. You choose a shop after its pro or anti base sentiment. Families don’t speak to each other. This is recognized as a big problem in the peace community and yesterday in the community get together the consequences of the protest and possible solutions were aired. There was even an apology to the activists coming from outside, we should be united as a village but we are not.

I left with the feeling that there is often a high price to pay for following your moral convictions. Not just losing respect for authorities that misbehave, prison sentences or a sense that your state is not listening to you.

But loss of friendship, family fall outs, loosing jobs and opportunities and maybe most of all your innocence.

Sweet Mary and Joseph, is North Korea attacking?

Was rudely awakened before 7 am by a loud wailing alarm coming from the street. Sweet be-Jesus. Before I knew it, me, my camera and part of my woken self was in a car raising towards the gates of the army base. It turned out that the villagers set of the alarm when something big is happening.

The gates to the base were open and a direct (but quite)action was underway.

How many police and conscripts do you need to move three non violent activists with banners?

IMG_5111Irony does not translate well into words but as it turned out, quite a few.

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The strong light in the photo is from a passing bus next to one of the cement trucks waiting to get into the naval base.

In the end, the trucks passed(by another route) and the work continued. The mayor talked them down at first, rightly pointing out that the GA took a stand yesterday which simply stating that there has to be a new naval simulation conducted on the base and therefore the 70 day hold that was stipulated in the decision was valid from the time of signing. Therefor no work inside the base could legally be done.

Despite this, the construction inside the naval has continued all day.

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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