Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island, South Korea. August 15, 2015. Three years later.
Much has changed in Gangjeong. The massive, and I mean massive, naval base to accommodate America’s “Pivot to Asia” is nearing completion.
Seeing it made me angry, and reminded me once again of my dear friend Dud Hendrick’s powerful words in The Ghosts of Jeju. He asked, “Is there any place so remote, so beautiful, so sacred as to be inviolable by the U.S. military? And when you think about it, there is no such place.”
Base housing in foreground fronting Tiger Island.
From Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to all of the islands of the Pacific from Hawaii down to the Marshall Islands including Japan, Okinawa, Jeju, Guam and the Philippines, America has killed millions of indigenous peoples, stolen their land and their resources and made them colonies of the U.S.. These are all horrendous crimes against nature and humanity.
When one visits Hiroshima, Okinawa and Jeju, as I am doing now, the truth about America’s past of global aggression becomes tragically clear. If Americans can admit that the entire American narrative is a lie, then, and only then, can Americans take responsibility for the actions of their government and hope to become an equal member of the human race.
What hasn’t changed in Gangjeong is the 8 year, ongoing, non-violent protest against this base. While there are fewer activists because of the attrition caused by over 600 arrests, 30 imprisonments, and fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the brave few remain.
The daily ritual of 100 bows at 7 am followed by Catholic mass and rosary at 11 am continue without pause. Because dozens of cement trucks and construction vehicles come and go all day and during the mass, the police clear the gates to allow them to pass. It is remarkable how gentle and respectful the police are these days, obvious that some sympathize with the activists, but avoid conversation and eye contact.
And as always, the action ends with several spirited songs and, the now famous, Gangjeong dancing.
The struggle here in Gangjeong is an important symbol for the peace, human rights, and environmental movements around the world. I believe the spirit of revolution is stirring in all parts of the planet and our only hope for survival is for a massive, global convergence of awareness that rises up and says NO to the evil systems that threaten our very lives.
Jesuit father Kim, when I asked him why the Jesuits have established a permanent house here and why he remains, said, “because there is evil on the other side of this wall, and we must remain here to stop it.”