Jeju Island Navy Base Proposal Reaching a Boiling Point

Bruce Gagnon sent out this action alert for solidarity with Jeju islanders fighting against a planned navy base on their “Peace Island”.  In recent statements to the media, the South Korean government cites Hawai’i as an example of the positive impacts of militarization.

The Korean government’s argument that militarization has been good for Hawai’i and would be good for Jeju is dead wrong.     Militarization led to the loss of Hawai’i’s independence as a country; it led to the destruction of the environment and disintegration of Hawaiian culture; it made Hawai’i a target during WWII and the Cold War; it brought the most virulent forms of racism and martial law to the islands; it provided America the platform from which to expand its empire;  it continues to distort our development in ways that serve the interests of Empire and not the security of Hawai’i or the region.

In Hawai’i, Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) was once one of the most productive fisheries for Native Hawaiian people. There was an extensive agriculture-aquaculture complex that fed many thousands on O’ahu island. Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa was the reason America invaded and occupied the Kingdom of Hawai’i, but for its strategic location, not the abundance of its resources.   The Navy took this resource and turned the area into a toxic superfund site. There are approximately 749 contaminated sites that the Navy has identified within the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex.    There are now signs warning not to eat fish, crabs or shellfish from the waters at Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa.  The waters are all off-limits to the public because of military security measures.

There are hundreds of other military contaminated sites.  Contamination includes PCB, perchloroethylene, jet fuel and diesel, mercury, lead, radioactive Cobalt 60, unexploded ordance, perchlorate, depleted uranium…

It is partially true that the military has become a major source of revenue in Hawai’i, but at a very high price.  The military economy is artificial. It is largely a result of the corrupt processes of the military-industrial-political complex and the game of earmarking defense appropriations for projects in the islands.  This is the source of Senator Daniel Inouye’s power, his ability to direct federal monies to Hawai’i, even at the expense of the environment, Hawaiian rights and sovereignty and peace in the Asia-Pacific region.

Also, Pearl Harbor has become a major tourist attraction because of its mythical significance in the American psyche.

The questions that we must always ask about the alleged economic benefits of the military in Hawai’i are: “Who gets paid?  Who pays the price? What are the real social, cultural and environmental costs of such a dependent economy?”   The native people of the land are the ones whose lands are always stolen and destroyed by the military.  They live in the toxic shadow of the bases.  Other productive capacities wither away as Hawai’i has grown completely dependent on imports (90% of food is imported) and federal spending.    Meanwhile those who benefit most from the military economy are the contractors (many who flock to Hawai’i when new appropriations flow in) who feed on the destruction wrought by all this so-called ‘prosperity’.   Many of these same contractors are lining up to feed on the destruction of Guahan.

Hawai’i’s experience should be a cautionary tale about the disastrous impacts of militarization and empire.



The latest word from Jeju Island  <> in South Korea is that things are coming to a head very soon. The photo above is from a sudden protest that was organized on March 20 when the Gangjeong villagers learned that the South Korean Minister of Defense was going to come to the village for an “inspection”.

The villagers turned out with their yellow flags that say “We Death Defiantly Oppose the Naval Base!” It appears that the Defense Minister, Kim Tae-Young, did not stay long.

Apparently later that same day the Defense Minister met with five representatives from the village including the Mayor Kang Dong-Kyun. A transcript of some of the meeting has been released by the village committee against the base. Here are some bits from the meeting:

Mayor Kang told the Defense Minister Kim, “So-called national business can make both the nation and villagers cooperate and co-live only when it makes both healthy. The site selection process of changing the site from Hwasoon and Weeme to Gangjeong was a problem. Kim Tae-Hwan, the Jeju Island governor and the Island Congress, who said that they would not drive for [the naval base] without villagers’ agreement, have just driven for it. By the result of the villagers own vote, 94% were against the drive for the naval base.”

Defense Minister Kim, listened but requested that the people “not point out the problems of the past but to think with an open mind, of the future of Gangjeon, Jeju, and the nation.”

Minister Kim emphasized the importance of the naval base construction, saying, “The naval base construction would be a big help for the defense of the southern area of the Jeju Island” and claimed that the “Naval base is different from the general factories that contaminate the environment. If it is constructed, it would help the economic development of the Jeju.”

[This statement by Minister Kim that the navy base would protect the southern area of the nation is very interesting. When you study a map you find Japan on one side of Jeju and China on the other. The fact that Aegis destroyers, outfitted with “missile defense” systems would be deployed at this proposed navy base indicate that China is the target.]

Kim also said that, “I think, in the case of Hawaii, the naval base has given much help for the Hawaii development.”

The two hour meeting did nothing to reassure the Gangjeong villagers. The villagers lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in Seoul on March 25 and rumors abound that the Navy will make an attempt to quickly hold their ground-breaking ceremony that same day while some of the village leaders are off the island attending the court hearing on the mainland.

Just days ago an activist in Maine told me she had called the South Korean embassy in Washington DC to complain about the proposed Navy base on Jeju Island. The activist was told that many people have been calling to protest the base. It would be helpful if you would call as well. The phone is 202-939-5692 (Admiral Choi) or email at <>

Remind the South Korean embassy that Jeju Island is now called the Island of Peace and that building a navy base that will be used to help the U.S. militarily encircle China will create a new arms race and increase instability in the Asian-Pacific region.

If you live outside the U.S. please call the South Korean embassy in your country and lodge a similar complaint.

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 <>  (blog)

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