Jeju/OkinawaFriends,Unbelievably, we're on our last day here in Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, Korea. It has been an emotional five days, as we have been given a crash course on the crime being perpetrated on this coastal community. The completion of the base is nearly a fait accompli--the government is projecting that it will be completed in the coming year. Having been here in April of 2013 and remembering the status of the base then has made this visit all the more disturbing--at the same time it has been uplifting.
Second Dispatch from Dud Hendrick
December 12, 2015
The protest has been continuing virtually non-stop for over 8 years, testimony to the depth of the passions the base has ignited. During my first visit it was already clear that it would take a miraculous turn of events to stop the project. Then I was impressed by the resolute dedication of the protesters; a conglomeration of Gangjeong villagers at the helm along with other Jeju islanders, mainland Koreans, and international activists. The resolve now goes way beyond "impressive." One observation is that the leadership, a diverse array of characters, seems to have remained stable. Many of those who played critical roles in 2013 and prior---even going back to 2008--continue to do so. The rank and file come and go, but many, particularly the young, have stayed for years. Others, like a few in our 13-person delegation have returned several times--the most notable being Bruce Gagnon who you might say has been adopted by the village and Ann Wright, the famed peace activist and former U.S. Army colonel and foreign service diplomat who resigned her position in opposition to the Iraq war. Bruce is deserving of the village's high regard that he is accorded--having visited five times and being, probably, the single person whose work has most brought Gangjeong to the world's attention.
An ironic twist--Samsung, the primary contractor on the project is attempting impose a hefty fine on the village of Gangjeong in penalty for all the delays caused by the protests.
During our visit we have been honored to have received briefings from some of the prominent leaders who have provided the inspiration behind this enduring resistance:
* Father Mun Jeong Hyeon, the iconic leader of the protest was awarded the 2012 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. The founder of Catholic Priests' Organization for Justice in opposition to South Korean dictatorships, he conducts the daily mass at the naval base gate and is generally the point person in protest from dawn 'til dusk. He has been a leading voice against the U.S. military presence in Korea for decades. Father Mun contributed his $50,000 Gwangju (cash) Prize to the anti-naval base campaign. He is a strong proponent of reunification between North and South Korea and sees the U.S. as the primary obstacle preventing that dream, embraced by many Koreans, from becoming reality.