* It is a short personal essay aiming to deliver some current news happening in the Gangjeong village where 94% villagers have been against the Jeju naval base plan. Staying in Gangjeong from April 8 to 17, 2010, I could more closely see the changing scenes in the village and hear the villagers’ stories that had not been well reported even in the Jeju media. Even though more refined and compensated reporting should be done, I thought it is some urgent to let the news known now, while hoping that I could deliver or translate of the writings based on more collected voices and on the officially refined. The below photos taken April 15to 16 show the 7sites of the vinyl houses and tree sites currently being removed in the naval base planned area, since around the end March, according to a villager.
A young artist Kim in Gangjeong, took most of photos, while I compensated a few to support his.
For more photos on the Gangjeong village and people's struggle
against the Jeju naval base plan, please see:
April 15, April 12, April 11, April 10, April 9, April 3, April 2, March 20, March 5~6, Jan 18 (2010)
강정 마을과 제주 해군 기지에 대항하는 사람들의 투쟁에 관한
Mr. Koh, who was one of the 32 villagers who initiated the struggle against the naval base plan in the Gangjeong village, when the naval base construction issue first came to the Gangjeong, Jeju Island, in April, 2007, is currently experiencing hard time because he has recently been notified from the woman landowner who lives outside the village and whose face he only became to see for the first time when she called him to meet each other and told him that she had sold the land to the navy and he should remove all his facilities and appliances that he has installed inside the vinyl house on her land that he has rented seven years ago and since then, worked hard to cultivate the small tomatoes to make the livelihood for his family. The woman landowner, the school teacher, told him on the day that some compensation money for it would be given to him.
He replied her that he did not need any money but only wanted to work in his rented green house and asked her to please wait for some period until the time when she has to finally show the navy that all things cleared.
Is such case only happening to him? Where would the renters of the vinyl houses in the village go, once they know that their landowners living outside the village suddenly appear to them and that they should give up the farming in their lands because they have already sold the lands to the navy?
The same villager has also informed that some vinyl houses and trees in some sites in the planned naval base area have been quietly removed since around the end of March. He said that those vinyl houses and trees had belonged to the people who had been in favor of the naval base plan. Most of those live outside the village and are not the villagers, They have sold their lands to the navy, by its cajoling and/or enforcing them.
One of the questions:
What kinds of the visual and psychological propaganda effects of the navy’s such quite military-operation’- like (some vinyl houses that were quietly removed) might bring to the villagers and travelers (specially the mainland travelers who have seldom known the process of the Defense Department’s reckless naval base plan and villagers’ strong opposition against it?
Mr. Koh say, “It was like a military operation when the navy first infiltrated the village to cajole the Gangjeong sea-diving women and many village leaders with money to vote for the naval base plan and stood behind the screen so that the cajoled people could pass the agenda for the naval base plan, with the totally manipulating scale. [Since then the majority of the Gangjeong villagers most of who were in opposition against the naval base plan expelled the wrong leaders and gone through the democratic process themselves, including electing the current mayor, Kang Dong-Kyun: The vote result regarding the naval base construction issue, in August, 2007, has been still same: 94% opposition against the naval base plan.
Now, looking at the terrible scenes of the removed vinyl houses, another sneaking, infiltrating military operation is happening, that moves secretly behind the screen again?
Site2: a tangerine vinyl house(above photo) beside the small market (left side in the below photo) was also removed: The small path in the right side in the photo is 'Olle' (meaning the travel path) to the Joongduk coast. Site3: trees removed across the small market in the site 2.
3. The Trial, postponed to May 27, by the request of the navy?
The villagers have waited for the result of final trial against the Ministry of National Defense on the cancellation of the approval disposal on the naval base plan, which was originally to be held on coming April 22. The judge has been heard to appear to be fair and understanding the reckless and undemocratic procedures in the Ministry’s driving process of the naval base plan, despite the villagers’ strong opposition of it. Villagers have thought since the judge seemed to be fair, the villagers would win. If then, a breakthrough indeed in the struggle… they have thought.
However, shockingly, it was recently known that the trial date was postponed to May 27, more than a month later. The navy has quietly persuaded the judges or some politicians to postpone the judgment so that it could earn the time to prepare to justify their process?
Even though we may know the specific reasons of it and measures against it that would be soon discussed later, it is more than disappointing but alarming to the villagers who have suffered for more than three years’ struggle.
The Navy may be waiting for the result of June 2 election in which the majority party is still ahead of the minority parties in the public poll, while preparing step by step for the realization of the plan.
4. The Dream that has to be told.
Mr. Koh says why he has so fought hard against the naval base plan:
“I don’t want to let my children lose their hometown. Even though I was born in Gangjeong, I spent most of my youth in another country, thanks to my much older sister and in the city, traveling many times for making living, under the racial, class discrimination. I so became to want to have the place where I can feel as home. So I returned back to Gangjeong, when I was 32, then I met my nine year younger wife here in Gangjeong. Since then, I could finally stay at one place here in my hometown. Because of my long years’ bitter experience to leave my home when I was young, I became to have the strong wish that I do not want to let my children lose their hometown. (He is proud of his brilliant and thoughtful eldest daughter who is getting the scholarship from the renowned Cheju(=Jeju) University, his second daughter who is a high school student, and his six year old son whom he so loves) They and their descendents will not have the experience any more that I have enjoyed when I was a child here: swimming in the most abundant and cleanest water in the Jeju Island, looking at the sweet fishes that go against the water flow in the Ganngjeong stream every May. If the naval base enters in Gangjeong village, the Gangjeong will be no more called as a village. It will be called, “Gangjeong Naval Base Headquarter” something like that.. How I can stand it? How can I tell my poor children that you have no more your real hometown? Could they still taste the fresh shells that I collected with you in the sea today? How could the Jeju Island be still the Island of Peace?"
In a village that has been called the most beautiful and nature-preserved in the Jeju Island, the villagers desperately call for your help to support their cause: No Jeju Naval Base!
Site7: trees removed in the near areas of 4. 5, 6