Matthew Hoey, International Outreach Coordinator, Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island recently published three excellent articles on the struggle to save Jeju from military base construction. More importantly, he explains the significance of the Jeju struggle for peace and security in the Asia Pacific region. In “Saving Jeju: The winnable fight we can’t afford to lose,” in Ceasefire magazine, he wrote:
Since 2007, residents of Jeju Island, South Korea, have been risking their lives and their freedom to prevent the construction of a naval base on what many revere as the picturesque island’s most beautiful coastline. This military base is to be home to both U.S. and South Korean naval vessels and a sea-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system. The proposed location of this base is Gangjeong, a small farming and fishing village that has reluctantly become the site of an epic battle for peace.
The Jeju Island naval base resistance is, in my opinion, the absolute front line of the struggle for international peace, and is increasingly gaining recognition as such in the minds of my colleagues and some leading scholars. The Gangjeong villagers have been waging a tireless and highly effective fight that stands in stark contrast to what has been a largely unsuccessful international peace movement that all too often lacks focus, unity and realistic goals.
In The Hankyoreh newspaper he wrote “Is S.Korean navy finally backed into a corner on the Jeju Base project?”:
This week South Korean navy officials acknowledged, though partly, that the layout of the Jeju naval base is not appropriate to facilitate a truly mixed-use port in line with their stated pitch to residents. For those unfamiliar with the situation, the navy promised that a naval base would result in a tourism boom for the modest fishing and farming village of Gangjeong by bringing cruise ships loaded with tourists clutching fists full of Korean won.
This recent revelation comes as no surprise to villagers and activists, who have resisted the project for more than five years. From the beginning many viewed the idea of a mixed-use port and the anticipated tourist boom as a contrived sales pitch based on empty promises.
And in Foreign Policy In Focus, Hoey wrote “Popping the Jeju Bubble”. The naval base on Jeju will become a key issue South Korean elections. Furthermore, international awareness has now helped to increase pressure on the South Korean government:
International observers now watching what’s going on in Gangjeong have effectively popped the “Jeju bubble.”
But it will take more than international solidarity to stop the base construction. Much depends on Koreans and how they vote in the upcoming elections. The Lee Myung Bak government is not listening to the people of Korea. No riot, protest, or news article will change its stubborn ways. Change will come with a new government. In the meantime the resistance to both the FTA and the naval base has given the opposition parties important rallying points against the administration. Occupy Seoul events have also taken place in solidarity with FTA activists and in support of the Jeju resistance.