Morgana Warner-Evans did a wonderful job with this story. She’s a college student and peace activist from Topsham, Maine.
Local filmmaker documents ‘Ghosts of Jeju’
Woolwich man’s film claims hidden abuses by U.S. in post-war Korea
BY MORGANA WARNER-EVANS Times Record Staff
THE DOCUMENTARY, “The Ghosts of Jeju,” focuses on a six-year campaign the people of Jeju Island have waged against a South Korean naval base being built in Gangjeong Village. Here, people lie down during their daily protest of the construction. The day typically ends with a vigil.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Regis Tremblay reads these words near the beginning of his film “The Ghosts of Jeju,” and immediately the sound of the U.S. Air Force Band is replaced by the sound of gunshots; the American flag fluttering on the screen is replaced by photos of Korean civilians killed on April 3, 1948.
It’s a sight, he says, that would probably shock and surprise most Americans.
CONCRETE TETRAPODS can be seen at the site of a future military base on Jeju Island in South Korea. Activists allege the base, being built in Gangjeong Village, will be used by the U.S. military. “The Korean war is always referred to as ‘the forgotten war,’” Tremblay said. “And really what it was was ‘the hidden war,’ because strict censorship was imposed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the entire military command.”
Now Tremblay, an independent documentary filmmaker from Woolwich, has filmed, produced and narrated a documentary that he says demonstrates the hidden abuses of the U.S. government in Korea during the postwar era.
“The Ghosts of Jeju” focuses on a six-year campaign the people of Jeju Island have waged against a South Korean naval base being built in Gangjeong (pronounced “kangjung”) Village. Activists allege the base will be used by the U.S. military.
AUTHORITIES deal with a protester in the documentary, “The Ghosts of Jeju,” which will be screened Sunday at Grace Episcopal Church, 1100 Washington St., in Bath. COURTESY OF REGIS TREMBLAY But the video takes more into account regarding the United States’ treatment of Korea after the war, including a little-known massacre of South Korean peasants and villagers in 1948.
Tremblay traveled to Korea to take footage and interview citizens protesting the Korean base in September 2012.
“I thought I was going (to Jeju) just to document another protest against war, but after spending a month there, I discovered that this story was much much bigger than just a protest on Jeju Island against the building of this base,” Tremblay said.
It was there that he learned about “horrendous atrocities and massacres” of Korean peasants and civilians at the hands of “the United States military government of Korea” in 1948.
Tremblay, who was born and raised in Waterville and moved away for high school before relocating to Woolwich, said he learned that as many as 60,000 peasants were massacred by South Korean security forces trained, equipped and commanded directly by the United States who were resisting the American occupation of Korea after World War II.
The 1948 protesters also opposed the installation of Syngman Rhee as president of the country, and the division of the country at the 38th Parallel after they were promised elections and unification, Tremblay said.
In the film, survivors testify about what they saw at the April 3, 1948, massacre.
The film shows photos of the Peace Museum on Jeju Island, built to commemorate the massacre: A jumble of sculpted heads, screaming, lies on the floor; the statue of a woman who was shot as she tried to escape crouches around her child.
The film also contains photos intent on showing the natural beauty of Jeju Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose rare flora and fauna activists say would be compromised by the military base.
Bruce Gagnon, a peace activist from Bath, has visited Jeju Island three times, and said the naval base shows “America’s disregard for culture, for nature, the endangered.
“(Something) that has a big effect on me is the (destruction of the) soft coral reefs offshore,” he said.
In the film, the villagers protest threats the new base presents to their traditional fishing and farming community. Along with international visitors, they sit in front of the gates to block construction multiple times each day until they are hauled away by police. They end each day with song and dance to keep their spirits up.
A famous Korean film critic from Jeju Island, Professor Yang Yoon-Mo, says in the film, “For the next thirty years, I will live only for my hometown … Jejudo is such a beautiful island. I can’t watch it being destroyed … I will lay down my life for that.”
“The thing that is so remarkable about the people in Gangjeong Village is that all day, every day, and for six years they’ve been laying their bodies down to protest the construction of that base and yet … at the end of every day, they typically have a candlelight vigil and they sing and they dance and this sense of community is really mindblowing,” said Tremblay.
Among the protesters are a great number of people of the faith community. One of them is Sister Stella Cho, a nun from Seoul.
“I didn’t even have to ask her any questions. I just put the camera on her and she rattled on. It was amazing,” Tremblay said, adding that Sister Stella’s interview was originally not going to be in the film because it was taken in poor lighting conditions.
Tremblay said the film has had approximately the same reaction everywhere it’s been shown — from Sweden to the Philippines, from Brunswick to Nepal.
“Regardless of where they are in the world, they all are troubled by the violation of human rights, the destruction of the environment.
“What’s interesting though, is this is no surprise to the rest of the world, but it’s shocking for Americans to learn about what’s been done in their name.”
He said that one message he wants people to take away from the film is the one at the end: “What’s really important and what’s really at stake is not which system is better and who is more powerful. What’s at stake is the survival of us as a species. … And that is the message of Jeju: the least we can do is amplify their voices.”
The film will be shown on Sunday, Aug. 18, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Grace Episcopal Church, 1100 Washington St., in Bath. A trailer can be viewed at www.theghostofjeju.wpengine.com.
Morgana Warner-Evans is a Times Record intern.
¦ “THE GHOSTS OF JEJU,” a
film by Regis Tremblay of
When: 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: Grace Episcopal
Church, 1100 Washington
Video @ www.timesrecord.com