On Jeju Island, South Korea, a jailed local opponent of a new U.S. navy base is in his 53rd day of a hunger strike. Korea’s most prominent film critic, University professor Yang Yoon-Mo, was arrested April 6 as he and other residents of Gangjeong village disrupted construction by locking themselves under the earth moving equipment. Yang, who was released from jail just three months before, following an earlier protest, was jailed again for violating a restraining order. He has refused food since that day, and declared his willingness to fast until death unless plans for the base are abandoned. On May 19, eight more opponents were arrested and are also in jail. One of them, Sung-Hee Choi, was taken into custody simply for displaying a banner that read “Do not touch any stone or any flower.” She, and perhaps some of the other prisoners, have joined with Yang in the hunger strike.
Yang, Sung-Hee and the others ask that supporters contact the South Korean embassy in their country to demand an end to construction of the base, freedom for the prisoners, and reinstatement of the preservation law that was selectively annulled to open the coast to such massive development.
Jeju is a volcanic island off the southern coast of Korea, with a history of cultural and political independence from the mainland. It is renowned as a World Natural Heritage Site for its clear waters, pristine, rocky beaches, volcanic geology and unique marine and island ecology. The U.S. Navy has long sought a port on this Island of Peace, due to its strategic location in the South China Sea between China, Korea, and Japan. The conservative government of Lee Myung Bak has suppressed voices for peace and reconciliation, and over the democratically expressed objection of the large majority of area residents, pushed hard to build the base.
When construction cranes were first brought in before dawn one day last summer, they were turned back by a campaign of civil disobedience. Then late last December, 66 cement trucks rolled into the site, accompanied by a very large police force. Police arrest 34 people who tried to block the construction convoy.
In the United States, Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space, who has visited Gangjeong village twice in recent months, has initiated a support fast and invited others to join him in solidarity with Professor Yang and the Korean anti-bases movement. For more information and links to videos and photos of nonviolent war resistance in Korea, visit Bruce’s blog at space4peace.blogspot.com.