Press Conference on Human Rights Violations in Jeju with Angie Zelter
- 2012.03.21 (03:21:22)
- 첨부 1
by Angie Zelter made at a press conference organised
by National Network of Korean Civil Society for
Opposing the Naval Base
in Jeju Island on 21st March 2012 from 11am – 12pm
I arrived in Gangjeong on 23rd February for the Jeju International Peace Conference and have stayed for a month. It has been an amazing time. I have been so impressed by the dedicated nonviolent struggle to stop the naval base being built on this wonderful Island of Peace. And it was a privilege to be able to take part in the nonviolent resistance as a global citizen from the UK.
I have learnt a great deal whilst here which explains some of the reasons for the dedicated and brave sustained resistance of the village of Ganjeong against the naval base. It also explains why this issue is of such importance to the international community, why it affects us all.
I was shocked to learn of the April 3rd 1948 massacre by the US military and mainland Korean police. The very belated recognition of the terrible suffering with over one ninth of the population being killed, 84 villages razed to the ground and a scorched earth policy over the whole island which left thousands of refugees, was as you know, commemorated by an apology in 2005 by President Roh Mee-hyun. He then designated Jeju as an Island of Peace. How terrible the sense of betrayal then, when only 2 years later he agreed to build a naval base on Jeju. Military bases are designed to wage wars and are not conducive to peace.
The issue of a central government and the U.S. determining the fate of the Island is of course to the fore again in this current struggle against the proposed naval base. The Gangjeong Mayor and the majority of the village of Gangjeong are against the destruction of the environment and against the base. The first vote supposedly for the construction was a false deception behind closed doors with very, very few of the villagers present and by applause only. This was quickly followed by outrage from those not consulted, by the election of a new Mayor and a valid vote from the majority of the villagers who then rejected the proposal.
Many people from near-by villages have recently come forward to support the village and many famous people are speaking up against the naval base too. The religious communities have been most active, especially the Catholic priests who hold regular mass and take part in many actions.
Protestant groups and Quakers as well as Buddhist monks are now joining the struggle. More and more people on the Island have asked for the base construction to stop, including the Island Council and the Bishop of Jeju. The Chairmen of the ruling and main opposition political parties of Jeju have issued statements asking for a re-evaluation of the project. When the Island Council asked to inspect the coastal waters, over which they have jurisdiction, the Navy denied them access. The Island is meant to have certain powers but the central government is ignoring these and humiliating the Island authorities. This is very dangerous and very reminiscent of the past terrible conflicts.
If you want peace you have to prepare for peace. And peace is what the whole world needs now in order to co-operate, as a global community, to solve the extremely serious threat to life on earth – that of climate change, the destruction of eco-systems, and the extinction of so many species. The life support systems of the planet are being destroyed by war and free-trade growth economic policies. We have to move from this ancient culture of war that humanity has been engaged in for over a thousand years now and move to a culture of peace. Few people realize how much the arms industry, the military and war gobble up oil and mineral resources and are a major contributor to greenhouse gases that are heating up our planet.
Of course, we all know that the U.S. is behind the naval base. The U.S. has been pulling the strings here in the Republic of Korea ever since the 2nd World War, it has been a major source of conflict, and is only interested in its own desire for global domination. The U.S. sees China as a threat because China is a rising economic power that it cannot compete with fairly. Jeju is unfortunately ideally placed just where ships pass through with oil and other resources that China imports. It is quite clear that the U.S. wants control of this potential stranglehold on China. We know quite a lot about how the U.S. Space Command has been computer war-gaming a first-strike attack on China, preparing for the coming conflict and how the proposed Navy base here on Jeju Island, just 300 miles from China’s coastline, would become a strategic port for Aegis destroyers and other warships. If this Naval base is built and the US military arrive then Jeju will become an Island of War and suffer terrible devastation once more.
I saw and felt the power of the sacred Gureombi rock, the only smooth volcanic fresh water rock in Korea – and began to understand a little how connected the villagers of Gangjeong are to the beauty of nature, the wonders of the soft corals (which are in the only UNESCO protected soft coral habitat in Korea), dolphins (which are IUCN listed endangered species) and red-footed crabs (a Korean designated endangered species), and the many other species that still live there but are so threatened by the naval base. I heard the anger expressed that the conservation protections set up to protect the natural wonders are being ignored and that the proper legal procedures are not being followed. The first explosions by the destruction companies, Samsung and Daelim, were terrible, the sea was polluted and there are major fears that the drinking water will ultimately be affected as the fresh-water springs underneath the rock are believed to be the source of the Gangjeong Stream that provides 70% of the drinking water for the citizens in the southern half of the Island.
Another major issue is of course the lack of due legal process which is the foundation of any true democracy. The villagers have suffered much harassment and violence perpetrated by the police and by the Daelim and Samsung security guards. None of the cases filed against these assaults have been allowed into the courts. Why? If wrong-doing is not prosecuted in the courts then a society will be consumed by more and more conflict. There has to be a peaceful and fair way to resolve conflicts and the legal system and court process is meant to provide this.
However, the road closures, the public port closures, the maritime police stealing of public kayaks and their dangerous assaults on protesters are all criminal charges that are not being allowed into the courts for judges to decide upon. Why?
In my own case, I have been arrested three times whilst entering the 'destruction' site to do a citizen's inspection of the damage done to the area that was once productive agricultural land, while visiting Gureombi, whilst cutting the razor wire around the rocks. I have been charged with unlawful trespass and with damage to public property – but where are the court papers summoning me to a trial so I can make my defence.
I have good arguments about the rights of ordinary people to nonviolently stop illegal preparations for war, about the illegal placing of the razor wire, about the right to access to the public port and to use a kayak and many other legal defences about the right to life. Surely it is for an independent judiciary to make these decisions? I wish to clear my name and defend myself from the charges made against me.
However, the Immigration authorities grabbed me from the police station as I was being released after 48 hours imprisonment saying that I am not acting as a tourist. But a tourist is also a human being and has a right to accompany her friends in their daily struggles and tribulations. If I have committed a crime it is not for Immigration to decide that but for a court of law.
However, when being held by Immigration I was in danger of immediate deportation so I made a promise to Immigration that I would no longer go to Gureombi or take part in the daily blockades or get into the site again and argued that I should be allowed to stay to say good-bye to the village and to talk to the press. I have been issued an Exit Order and must return on my scheduled flight tonight.
However, if the rule of law still exists here in Korea then I challenge the judiciary to call me back to attend a trial.
I will of course continue to work hard against the naval base when I return to the U.K. Already vigils and demonstrations have started outside the Korean Embassy in London and I will join them.
The recent removal of the 3 U.S. Veterans for Peace who were denied entry on 14th March 2012 shows how much the Korean Government, Military and its U.S. advisers fear the growing international interest in this issue. However, the building of this naval base is of huge importance to the international community and will continue to be highlighted by demonstrations at Korean Embassies all over the world. We cannot afford to let the U.S. use countries like Korea as collaborators in yet another war – this time against China.
I would like to leave you with one last thought. If you think of the violation of local people's rights, the assaults being perpetrated already, the lack of local control over a public fishing port, all that is being experienced already before the base is even built, just think what it will be like when armed U.S. soldiers are guarding U.S. nuclear weapons at the naval base. The idea that this can be a peaceful joint public and naval port is a dangerous deception.
So, I urge as many Koreans as possible to go to Gangjeong, before the U.S. Soldiers arrive and to take part in the blockades and to find the courage to take down the fences that surround these war preparations, to stop the machinery working and find the nonviolent power in themselves to assist the brave villagers of Gangjeong.
Together we can all, in our different ways, from near and far, stop the naval base from being constructed. We can respect nature and allow Jeju to remain a true Island of Peace. My thanks to you all.