Kang Dong Kyun, the Mayor of Ganjeong Village on Jeju Island, South Korea, has been touring Europe, visiting Dublin, London and various other English cities and Paris to draw attention to the destruction that is being wrought to an area UNESCO has declared to be one of the world’s most important sites of natural beauty, as well as to the wellbeing of the people who live in the area. Comrades from the CPGB-ML attended the meeting held in London on 15 October at the School of Oriental and African Studies where they leant that the position of the island to the south of the Korean peninsula makes it particularly suitable as a military base, and construction work is already well advanced. As Mayor Kang points out, the base is being established not for reasons of security but for the purpose of encircling China. It is to become part of Obama’s ‘Asia Pivot’ and will house nuclear submarines, Aegis missile warships and aircraft carriers. Its operations will require the presence not only of the US Navy but also of its airforce and army. The US has built a string of military bases round the world for the purpose of maintaining its military domination, invariably in small, weak countries whose people’s future is being heartlessly endangered as they will become a target should the war for which the US is preparing ultimately break out. Mayor Kang is convinced that there is a real danger that all these war preparations are for a war that could endanger the whole future of the planet and render it uninhabitable.
In the interests of steaming ahead unhindered in building this monstrosity, the propaganda machine has been going full blast trying to convince people that the presence of the base will improve their lives, but only a minority of people are taken in by this. Jeju is only a very small island (an oval shape 46×26 miles), and the presence of the base will severely disrupt people’s way of life. After assuring people some years ago that there would be no compulsory purchase of farmland, the South Korean regime has gone back on its promise and is forcing people to sell their land – and at a price well below market value. This is only one example of prevarication aimed at undermining people’s resistance. They have also been told that the naval base will not be out of bounds to local people – but it is obvious that once it is built nobody is going to be allowed on the base other than authorised military personnel.
Mayor Kang points out that the South Korean government has a long history of oppression of the Jeju islanders. They have always valued their freedom and independence and following the US occupation of South Korea after the Second World War they rose up in rebellion against the Syngman Rhee puppet government on 3 April 1948. The South Korean troops sent in to quell the rebellion succeeded in slaughtering 20% of the population in a period of little more than a year. Although subsequently there have been apologies for this massacre, still the South Korean government will not let the people live in peace but have entangled them in the US war machine.
Local people, including farmers, artists, monks and nuns, have been protesting every day for the last seven years, but their peaceful protests are regularly broken up by massive police contingents, often violently, and criminal proceedings are taken against participants who are made to pay enormous fines.
In the discussion following Mayor Kang’s presentation, we made the point that subservience to the interests of US imperialism has always been the policy of the South Korean regime. It did not suddenly take to subservience 7 years ago, but has always subjected the people to humiliation and hardship to serve the US. Most importantly Korea remains divided more than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of its people. Although the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has consistently put forward proposals for the formation of a united Korea with two systems (as China has done in incorporating Hong Kong), the United States has instructed South Korea’s puppet government to keep away from reunification negotiations simply because when Korea is reunited there will be no basis for US imperialism maintaining its hold on the country as an arsenal for its 1,000 nuclear warheads supposedly to ‘protect’ South Korea from the North.
Mayor Kang said that it was his simple ambition to pass his farm on to his children to farm peacefully in beautiful surroundings as his family has done for generations.
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 hectares. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and lake-filled crater. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes.