In Solidarity with Gangjeong Villagers Say No to the Jeju Naval Base!
The following is the outcome statement of the 3rd People’s Forum of Peace for Life, with the theme “Affirming Life Together in the Face of Belligerent Empire”, held last October 23-27, 2013 on Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea. IWA Chairperson Liza Maza attended the said event.
We, the participants of the 3rd Peoples Forum of Peace for Life gathered at the April 3rd Peace Park on Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea from 23rd to 27th of October 2013. We held a women-led solidarity mission to Jeju and Gangjeong Village, sharing common experiences of the threats to life in our respective societies and throughout the world. Inspired by our faith traditions shared affirmations of life, we issue this call to solidarity and action.
We note with concern that the government of the Republic of Korea has enforced a naval base construction in Gangjeong village, Jeju Island since 2007, without proper consultation with villagers and consideration of villagers’ rights to environment, land and peace. We are distressed to witness large-scale development profiting big corporations destroy peace in a village under the name of protecting national security. For seven years the people of Gangjeong village have resisted the base construction and suffered unjustly from abuse by authorities in response to their non-violent campaign against the construction of this naval base which will militarise the East Asian sea. We witnessed the strong resistance of the historic tradition of Jeju women lived out in Gangjeon village struggle against the base construction. In their struggle, they have been accompanied by activist groups from around the world. The Catholic Church, in particular, has been a key presence for the last two years, offering mass every day in resistance to this travesty.
The Jeju naval base in fact will be used to realise the U.S. “Pivot to Asia,” especially via ROK-US missile defense interoperability. Jeju naval base will be a critical outpost of the ROK-Japan-U.S. maritime military alliance targeting China which will draw the Republic of Korea even further into the escalation of this regional conflict. In such a conflict, Jeju Island will become a primary target, leading to devastating loss of life and destruction.
Gangjeong village is one of the oldest and the most beautiful villages in Jeju Island. Its coastal waters are a unique natural habitat, designated an Absolute Preservation Area and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Living within this area are many endangered species, including the world’s largest temperate soft coral forest. The community has a long tradition of venerating pools of water and ancient trees, threatened by existence of the base. A sacred 1.2 km lava rockbed called Gureombi has been blasted during the construction, and is currently being built over.
People of the village feel that they have been following the law and that the local and national authorities and the base contractors are violating the law. Despite their “civil obedience,” villagers and their supporters have repeatedly been detained, charged, fined and imprisoned. One of the most serious abuses has come from the private security contractors hired by the construction corporations.
The Gangjeong villagers’ rights to peace and environment, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association must be guaranteed at all times. All the rights of peace activists and international human rights defenders in solidarity with people of Gangjeong village should be protected and promoted at all times. Everyone has the right to live in peace.
We, the participants of the 3rd People’s Forum, stand in solidarity with the people of Gangjeong village in their peaceful struggle against maritime militarisation. The Jeju people have the full right to resist a repeat of last century’s tragedy, the April 3rd massacre of tens of thousands of Jeju islanders in 1948. The people of Gangjeong villager present a strong call to open a new era of peace and cooperation in East Asia for themselves and for us all.
We strongly urge the following:
Stop the Jeju naval base construction immediately.
Guarantee the human rights to peace, environment, and freedom of expression for the people of Gangjeong village.
Allow Gangjeong village to remain a community of life and peace, and keep Jeju Island as the Island of World Peace.
Immediately release and drop all charges against all peace defenders and villagers who, seeking justice, peacefully protested against the naval base construction.
Say no to the militarisation of the sea. Make the sea of East Asia the Sea of Peace.
Say no to an arms race in the Asia Pacific. Say Yes to peace in the Asia Pacific.
Adopted 27 October 2013
Jeju April 3 Peace Park, Republic of Korea