Jeju island off of South Korea is a gem of beauty, abundant natural resources and resilient people. It is a recognized as world peace island and an endangered soft coral marine environment. The island is also made famous by the women pearl divers who have always been cultural and community leaders. Jeju has a long tradition of activism against Japanese imperialism as well as the American-backed dictatorship in South Korea. For this fighting spirit many have been massacred by the South Korean state. The proposed naval base on Jeju, which will be used to support the US missile defense encirclement of China, has been met with growing resistance. A beautiful statement against the military base construction in Jeju Island from a coalition of women’s organizations in Korea was posted on the Women News Network:
Korea women want nature instead of naval base on Jeju Island
Gyung-Lan Jung – Women News Network – WNN Opinion
Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island must be a place of peace, life and healing for the Korean Peninsula!
For the past ten years, the issue of the naval base on Jeju has changed from Hwasunri to Wimiri to Gangjeong, totally destroying the communities of these villages who have been living together like family for generations.
This issue has caused deep frictions within the residents of the island, and not only the residents of the proposed base area, but the majority of the Jeju Prefecture population are against the base construction.
The ocean around Gangjeong Village, the proposed base site, borders a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve, and is also designated as Natural Memorial 442, a natural protection area home to clusters of soft coral.
This place is now being destroyed by the military’s unilateral forced construction.
In the local ecosystem, as the precious rocks of Gureombi, many lives of Gangjeong are dying, including the crab designated by the Ministry of the Environment as an endangered species, Sesarmops intermedium.
The beautiful scenery and nature is being covered by garbage indiscriminately disposed of by construction companies, and the underground water which is the source of much life is being tainted by dust and foreign objects discharged in the construction process, left neglected with holes.
Professor Yang Yoon-Mo, who settled by the sea of Gangjeong on his own and spent over three years with the local people trying to protect their village, was jailed and even now more than 60 days since he began a hunger strike is putting his life on the line, asking “If I die, scatter my ashes in the Gureombi sea.” Choi Sung-hee, who has also dedicated herself fully to protecting the peace of Gangjeong, is also in jail on the 12th day of a hunger strike.
As popular opinion throughout Korea strengthens against the base, and as activities by people around the country supporting actions in solidarity against the base construction such as sending support items, banners, donations and volunteers continue, the navy is becoming more frenzied to build this military base – with no clear purpose – and continues its oppression, reacting to protests with more military violent methods.
Knowing these facts, we women strongly condemn the navy for forcing through the naval base construction, and the Jeju Prefectural Government for silently allowing this to happen.
Jeju still has the memory of the massive state violence of 4.3. Despite losing their parents and siblings, every day the people had to hold their breath and hide their tears. Furthermore, through the “guilty-by-association” restrictions, innocent people had to live as if guilty. Even now 60 years on, the people of Jeju Island who lost members of their families and have been living with grief for years are not able to raise their voices, and their bitterness cannot be brushed away.
However, the new form of massive state violence in the form of the naval base is threatening our lives and peace.
We deeply share the concern of the Jeju Islanders that the animosity and conflict amongst the community as a result of the forced construction of the naval base may once again repeat the pain of the 4.3 Incident.
Having experienced the tragic history of the 4.3 Incident, and still feeling the pain of this experience, Jeju understands just how important peace is. Thus, we do not want such a difficult past to be once again brought upon the next generations of Jeju through the naval base. We do not hope for a village without peace, with the blessings of nature destroyed and the community broken down.
We hope that the ocean will be able to retain its current form, generously providing us all we ask for when we need a rest or when our stomachs are empty. We hope that will remain a place where the mothers of mothers connect lives, and many stories and breaths are left. We hope Jeju Island to be left as a peaceful place where we ourselves and our children can continue to live.
We women, deeply hoping for peace and not war on this land, oppose the military base. Peace is not just a value that cannot be seen, but is an extremely important, real thing that can change the fate of a community or a country.
And, as people who can shape Jeju, want to ask about the Jeju naval base: Can peace and military bases coexist? Is a wrong choice being rationalised with the excuse of supposed practical advantages?
Jeju Island, the island of peace, does not belong to a few politicians or military officials. The many islanders of Jeju are the custodians of Jeju Island, and they have a right to live in peace and safety. It is necessary to guarantee the future of the children.
We intend to work together with the people of Jeju Island to build a path of solution for Jeju, where life and peace breathe. As well as national actions in solidarity to stop the construction of the naval base, we will spread word of the naval base issue internationally, and actively stand together with the residents of Gangjeong to protect the beautiful natural legacy and realise Jeju as the Island of Peace.
Women Making Peace located Seoul, South Korea, is part of 34 Korean women’s groups who have come together in agreement to work with the people of Jeju Island to create peace. Below is the list of those who have signed on to this plea:
34 Women’s Groups – Korea
Women Making Peace
Kyunggi Women’s Association United,
Gwangju-Jonnam Women’s Association United,
Daegu-Kyungbuk Women’s Association United,
Busan Women’s Association United,
Kyungnam Women’s Association
Korean Association of Christian Women for Women Minjung
Daegu Women’s Association
Daejun Women’s Association
Busan Counseling Center Against Sexual Violence
The Korean Catholic Women’s Community for a New World
Suwon Women’s Association
Ulsan Women’s Association
Jeju Women’s Association
Jeju Women’s Human Rights Solidarity
Chungbuk Women’s Association
Pohang Women’s Association
Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center
Korea Women Workers Association
Korea Women’s Associations United
Korea Women’s Studies Institute
Korea Women’s Hotline
Korea Women Migrants’ Human Rights Center
National Solidarity for the Solution for Sexual Trafficking
The National Association of Parents for Charm/education
Women’ Social Education Center
Kyungnam Women’s Associations United
Chonbuk Women’s Associations United
Pusan Women’s Center for Social Research
Saewoomtuh for Prostituted Women
Korean Differently-Abled Women’s United
Korean Association of Women Theologians
Housewives Movement for Togetherness