By David Swanson. This article was first published on War is a Crime.
On Jeju Island, an environmental jewel sixty miles south of the Korean Peninsula, a massive naval base is being built to house US warships, submarines and aircraft carriers, serving as a key forward base for the ” US Pacific Pivot”, and turning the region into a hair trigger for global confrontation. Seven years of principled non-violent struggle by the affected villagers have resulted mostly in endless beatings, arrests, fines, imprisonment; a growing international solidarity movement; but little tangible in the way of political support from any national or local government.
On December 3rd, 2013, the City Council of Berkeley, voted to support the Peace and Justice Commission’s Resolution in support of the residents of Jeju Island and to End US support for construction of the Jeju Naval Base. This makes it the first city in the world to formally declare its support of the Jeju Islanders and its opposition to the base.
Despite being stripped out of the consent calendar and placed almost at the bottom of the council agenda–procedural maneuvers designed to kill off the item–the resolution ultimately passed (with 5 votes in favor) and 4 abstentions in the Berkeley City Council. Council member Kriss Worthington, who had fast-tracked the resolution, tabled the two items preceding the resolution, allowing it to be put to discussion and a vote, minutes before the clock ran out.
Huge popular support, an unusually vibrant and vocal group of speakers who stayed late into the night–waiting for over 4 hours for the opportunity to address the council for a single brief minute–and a massive flurry of emails from concerned individuals all over the country may have influenced the final vote.
Motivated activists from local seminaries, from the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, the Peace and Justice Commission, the Ecumenical Peace Institute, and others made passionate, informed pleas for support of the resolution. An activist in a wheel chair broke down in tears as she implored the council to support the cause of peace.
Also significant was a letter from Christine Ahn, a scholar at the Korea Policy Institute and peace activist, who wrote in a heartfelt and moving letter that she had named her daughter Jeju because of her passion for the cause of the peace activists on the island.
An earlier version of the resolution had previously been shot down in February by the Council. Even as it was drafted by the commission, Dan Siegel of the Peace and Justice Commission had stated, with a straight face, “It is not our business of the US to tell the South Korean government and military how to defend itself against North Korea and China.”
Council Member Linda Maio attempted to water down the resolution by stripping out references to the Pacific Pivot (despite corroborating statements from the Secretary of State and Defense); references to toxic dumping in bases in the Phillipines, and rapes and violence in Okinawa, (as well as missile tests in the Marshall Islands and drone bases in Australia). In particular, Council Member Maio stated, “Condemning the U.S Military for rapes–I can’t put it in there”, apparently oblivious to the fact that 22,000 rapes and sexual assaults occur within the military annually, a number that itself pales in comparison with the abuse that is dealt out to the general population by an occupying military immunized from local prosecution by Status of Forces Agreements.
She also removed information regarding the hardware being deployed (the US Navy’s Aegis Combat System).
Council Member Max Anderson, however, put paid to her statement, stating that he had been in Okinawa, and had witnessed first hand the abuses, the rapes, the violence, and ugliness of the military occupation.
Council Member Gordon Wozniak mentioned the recent escalation of hostilities in the pacific with Air Defense Zones, stating that “it was not just about Korea, that it was Japan, China”, and that the supporters of the resolution were “missing the point” [in focusing on Korea]. He did not seem understand that he had just proven the argument of the supporters, that the Jeju base was part of the general escalation of hostilities and projection of force in the pacific, and that its presence would exacerbate regional conflict.
Ultimately, what may have swung the vote may have been a missive from Gloria Steinem, legendary feminist icon and supporter of Jeju, addressing the city council:
“As you cast your votes about Jeju’s future, I hope you will consider the attached”, referring to her article in the New York times where she had written, “There are some actions for which those of us alive today will be judged in centuries to come. The only question will be: What did we know and when did we know it? I think one judgment-worthy action may be what you and I do about the militarization of Jeju Island, South Korea, in service of the arms race.”
Resolution in support of the residents of Jeju Island, South Korea: End U.S. support for construction of the Jeju Naval Base:
WHEREAS, the Peace and Justice Commission advises the City Council on all matters relating to the City of Berkeley’s role in issues of peace and social justice (Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 3.68.070); and
WHEREAS, the City of Berkeley has a long history of advocating for peace and justice, and for the protection of the environment, such as Resolution No. 61,007-N.S. endorsing the Earth Charter in support of its principles and adoption by the United Nations at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development (Rio+10); which commits the City of Berkeley to “respect Earth and life in all its diversity…care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love…build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful…and secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations;”[i]and
WHEREAS, In 2005, Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea, was designated as an Island of Peace [ii]and is UNESCO’s only triple honoree: a Global Geological Park,[iii] Biosphere Reserve[iv] and World Heritage Site;[v] and
WHEREAS, residents on Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, South Korea, have been organizing nonviolent protest[vi] to stop the construction of a massive naval base which will destroy their community, way of life, and rich marine ecosystem which the famous haenyo or women sea divers, fishermen and farmers depend on for their livelihoods;[vii] and
[THIS SECTION DELETED]WHEREAS, Jeju is one of many island communities around the Pacific that are now at great risk of militarization and despoliation from the Pentagon’s “Pacific Pivot.” According to statements by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, US naval resources are rapidly shifting from Europe and the Middle East, to boost the Asia-Pacific region to 60% of the total.[viii] The US military is being condemned by local peoples for toxic dumping in the Philippines, rapes and violence in Okinawa, missile tests in the Marshall Islands, and a drone base being being built on the remote Cocos Islands of Australia;[ix]and
WHEREAS, as recently as 1994, the U.S. military operationally controlled the South Korean military in peace as well as wartime, and still maintains wartime control; and the U.S. maintains in South Korea more than 85 active military installations and about 37,500 military personnel, 140 tanks, 170 armored vehicles, advanced fighters, and a range of missiles and fighting helicopters;[x] and ongoing discontent over the U.S. military presence has been caused in part by sovereignty concerns as well as the behavior of U.S. troops towards the population;[xi] and
[THIS SECTION DELETED ]WHEREAS, the militarization of Jeju will worsen tensions between the People’s Republic of China and other nations in Northeast Asia, and will put this Island of Peace at great risk as a pawn in a big-power struggle. The peace and security of Jeju is literally being traded away for geo-strategic and military gains. According to the Hankyoreh daily newspaper,[xii] Pentagon leaders are pushing for a tripartite (U.S., South Korea, and Japan) missile defense system, a system based on interception of long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles, and therefore of more use against China than North Korea.[xiii] The planned base at Jeju will be home to warships using the US Navy’s Aegis Combat System, which uses powerful computers and radar to guide weapons to destroy enemy targets. China has already described Aegis as a dangerous provocation.[xiv] Former U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings describe the Jeju base proposal as part of “the U.S. policy of encirclement of Russia and China;”[xv] and
WHEREAS, evidence has mounted that the Jeju base will be the site of U.S. warships: a Republic of Korea (ROK) naval document from 2009 on the plan for the Jeju base set the depth of the submarine dock at 12 meters, far more than the 9.3 meters required for South Korean submarines, enough to accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered SSN-776 submarines; and South Korean legislator Kim Kwang-jin responded, “If it is built this way, we can’t even guarantee that it will be a South Korean military base, let alone a civil harbor;”[xvi] and
WHEREAS, Mayor Kang Dongkyun of Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island has appealed directly to the People of Berkeley and to the City Council of Berkeley, saying on June 1, 2013:
“The US government is trying to put its power in different places like Jeju Island, Hawaii, Guam and other places. I think that not only people in the City of Berkeley, but people in general in the United States are not aware of that fact….I want to work with the people of the City of Berkeley and not only the people of Berkeley….to create peace;”[xvii]
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that, the Council of the City of Berkeley calls on Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senators Feinstein and Boxer to urge the US military to cease supporting the military base now being built on Jeju Island, a base which will gravely harm the fragile ecology, damage the livelihood of the people of Jeju, and make this Island of Peace a pawn of the great powers and a magnet for military conflict; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley direct the City Clerk to send a copy of this resolution to Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye.
1. Official statement of appeal from Jeju.
We appeal to peace advocates worldwide to give Gangjeong residents and its peace activists international support and solidarity to stop the Jeju naval base construction. Please spread the news of these problems related to the Jeju naval base construction with your networks and show us your support and solidarity.
The Joongduk coast of Gangjeong Village in Jeju Island is now suffering. In 2006, Jeju Island was designated as an Island of Peace for the purpose of consoling the deep sorrow of the April 3rd Massacre. However, despite the fact that the sea of the Gangjeong village is a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve for the vast soft coral forests and its coastis an Absolute Preservation Area, the village is now being threatened by the naval base construction.
Insisting that the naval base is vital for national security, the Korean government and the Navy are enforcing the construction. However, the Ocean Navy expansion plan–upon which the base construction was justified–has been discarded in revisions to the national defense bill regarding strategies to counteract recent security threats. This leaves no justification for this new base.
In addition, the original argument from the government when the National Assembly budget bill was passed was to construct a Joint Civil Military site to be used for tourism as well as military purposes. However, through the ROK National Assembly and Jeju Island Council investigations on government affairs in 2012, that story has been revealed as thoroughly deceptive. In fact these reports disclosed that the base design is tailored to U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and U.S. nuclear submarines. Yet the Korean government continues to deceive the public through sugar-coated lies promising economic development and eco-friendly harbor-building. It should be emphasized that only 5% of the construction budget is allocated from civilian sources. The remaining 95% is allocated from the ROK Ministry of National Defense.
By maintaining military alliances with Japan, Australia, South Korea, and India, and through joint military exercises with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, the U.S. is attempting to build up its defense line against China. If the Jeju naval base is constructed, the U.S., which possesses the right to station there according to the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement, will surely use this base to stand up against China. In that case, Jeju Island, an Island of Peace, will become a center of military conflict between the U.S. and China, jeopardizing South Korea’s national security.
Government and military authorities, however, are turning a blind eye to the voices of Gangjeong residents and civil peace activists, as well as to the demands to suspend the construction coming from the opposition parties and the investigation committee of the National Assembly. The Navy has even used violence against a protesting civilian. On July 11, the national government recommended that the city government barricade a farm road on the Joongduk coast, which is the last remaining piece of state-owned land under the jurisdiction of Seogwipo city within the site of the naval base construction. This action was a response to the demand from the Ministry of National Defense to discourage any attempts to stage a protest against the naval base construction. However, such efforts by the government to enforce the construction only bring about stronger resistance and conflicts from Gangjeong residents and peace activists. The construction must be stopped before any unfortunate accidents take place.
We appeal to the government and military authorities
The argument for the base construction by the government and the Navy is no longer valid. Moreover, the means and procedures used to promote the construction have been so violent and deceptive that they are only causing more resistance and resentment. Unilaterally pushing ahead with the construction, in the name of the national project, is obviously not a wise way. We call upon the government and military authorities to withdraw their plan to close the farm road and to completely reexamine the Jeju naval base construction project.
We appeal to Woo Keun-Min, Jeju governor
Governor Woo, you were aware of the negative consequences that could result from the naval base construction and you were right. We urge you to give up the futile illusion about the development profit and to listen to the desperate voices of the residents. We further request you to use your authority to cancel the removal of the “absolute preservation area” designation of Joongduk coast. If you do so, history would remember you as a person who protects the peace of Jeju and the Korean peninsula.
We appeal to the national assembly
As an entity representing citizens, the national assembly has a duty to listen to and respond to citizens’ voices. We appeal to the opposition parties to be more active in nullifying the Jeju naval base construction project. The Grand National Party, as the current ruling party, should seriously examine whether the base is really needed and whether national budget should be spent on inflating military forces and feeding construction capital.
We appeal to citizens
Gangjeong citizens have been fighting alone for over four long years. In the meantime, the village community has been torn apart, leaving indelible scars. Citizens are also engulfed with fears due to various lawsuits from the government and construction companies, as well as fines up to tens of millions of won. They are suffering from the fact that the Goorungbi boulder, which represents their dreams and memories, might be covered with cement block.
Please express your solidarity and give them your consolation. And if you can, please visit Gangjeong Village. Then you might be able to understand more clearly why the construction must be stopped. In addition, please use your wisdom and energy to do whatever you can in your position to prevent the Jeju naval base construction.
We appeal to peace advocates worldwide
International support, advocacy, and solidarity to stop the Jeju naval base construction give Gangjeong residents and peace activists strength and courage. Please spread the news of these problems related to the Jeju naval base construction with your networks and show us your support and solidarity.
We will try our best to prevent the Jeju naval base construction, which endangers the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia, and which is destroying the lives of Gangjeong residents and the natural environment, a gift from heaven. We firmly believe that this struggle is our responsibility to Jeju Island, where the sorrow of the April 3rd massacre is deeply embedded, that this is an expression of our conscience regarding the suffering Gangjeong residents, and that it is the demand of the times to protect and ensure peace for our children. We sincerely appeal to everybody who stands alongside us to protect Gangjeong Village and Jeju Island.
For more information visit the Korea Peace Network, http://peacekorea.org/zbxe/Eng_main
2. Excerpt from the Earth Charter:
I. RESPECT AND CARE FOR THE COMMUNITY OF LIFE
1. Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
a. Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.
b. Affirm faith in the inherent dignity of all human beings and in the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity.
2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people.
b. Affirm that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote the common good.
3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
a. Ensure that communities at all levels guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential.
b. Promote social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.
4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
a. Recognize that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations.
b. Transmit to future generations values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth’s human and ecological communities.
[i]City of Berkeley Earth Charter Resolution #61-007-N.S. adopted March 27, 2002.: “Be it Resolved that the Council of the City of Berkeley endorses the Earth Charter in support of its principles and adoption by the United Nations at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development (Rio+10)” http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/invent/images/uploads/City%20of%20Berkeley.pdf
[ii]Hough, Laura, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/expeditions/2013/05/29/bringing-war-to-the-island-of-peace-the-fight-for-the-preservation-of-jeju-do/
[v]UNESCO, . “Jeju Volcani Island and Lava Tubes.” UNESCO. UNESCO, n.d. Web. 6 Jun 2012. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1264>.
[vi]Ahn, Christine. “A Korean Spring?” Foreign Policy In Focus. N.p., 2012. Web. 6 Jun 2012. <http://www.fpif.org/articles/a_korean_spring>.
[vii]Sang-Hun, Choe. “Island’s Naval Base Stirs Opposition in South Korea.” New York Times. N.p., 2011. Web. 6 Jun 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/world/asia/19base.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all>.
[viii] “Strategic Trends 2013: Key Developments in Global Affairs,” Center for Security Studies, Ed. Oliver Thränert, page 17, http://www.css.ethz.ch/publications/pdfs/Strategic-Trends-2013-EastAsia.pdf
[ix]On the Front Lines of a New Pacific War. The Nation. Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander | December 14, 2012, http://www.thenation.com/article/171767/front-lines-new-pacific-war#
“Aegis: Guard of the Guardians Themselves” | notonlyformyself
Posted by notonlyformyself | Saturday, 19 January 2013
Oliver Stone Visits Jeju Island
By K. J. Noh Counterpunch, Aug. 23 to 25, 2013 and Hollywood Progressive, Aug. 26, 2013)
[x]“U.S. Forces, Korea / Combined Forces Command,” www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/dod/usfk.htm
[xi]“US-Korea Security Alliance,” US Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University, http://uskoreainstitute.org/?s=OPCON
[xii] Hankyoreh is the fourth largest newspaper in South Korea, and has maintained a focus on human rights since its founding in1988. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hankyoreh
[xiii] “South Korea’s missile defense could be incorporated into US system,” October 3, 2013, http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/605652.html
[xiv] “The Battle for Jeju Island: How the Arms Race is Threatening a Korean Paradise,” Robert Redford, onearth, Natural Resources Defense Council, February 3, 2012, http://www.onearth.org/blog/robert-redford-jeju-island-korean-paradise-threatened
[xv]Hough, Laura, Scientific American, Ibid.
[xvi] “Navy report: Jeju naval base ot accommodate US nuclear submarine,” Hankyoreh newspaper, October 18, 2012, http://savejejunow.org/navy-report-us-nuk-submarine/
[xvii]Interview by Diana Bohn with Mayor Kang Dong-Kyun , June 1, 2013.
Gangjeong Village Mayor Kang Dong-Kyun from Jeju Island, who was beaten by South Korean police on May 10, 2013 while protesting the proposed naval base, spoke at the June 1 Moana Nui 2013 teach-in at the King Middle School in Berkeley, California. (See http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org/moana-nui-2013-june-1-2-in-berkeley/ for the Moana Nui press release.) The Moana Nui teach-in was sponsored by the International Forum on Globalization, with presentations by 50 scholars and activists from 20 countries. The Mayor’s speech at Moana Nui can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CW4ZFA4hss