On Tuesday, November 21, several members of SOS (Save Our Seas), the Gangjeong ocean observation, monitoring, and action team, reunited after several months of focusing on other activities (and several members months long imprisonment). Four members, decided to take two kayaks, one turned into a homemade sailboat, out to the sea to observe the construction. Their plan was to circle the construction site legally from the outside, observe and take pictures and video. They also just to go out to sea for the first time in several months.
The weather was a bit cold and overcast, but it was not dangerous or excessively windy and there were no sea weather warnings. All four members are excellent swimmers and kayakers as well as licensed divers. They also all wore heavy winter wet suits, both for warmth and safety. The members brought their kayaks to Gangjeong port, a small public port, and put their boats in the water. Upon doing so, the coast guard ran to them and began questioning them about their plans and motive. Since Korea is supposedly a free democracy and not a police state, the members merely replied that they were going to the ocean and felt no further need to give more details.
As the SOS members got in the Kayaks and took off, they were suddenly surrounded by Coast Guard ships and officers. Without any announcement or information, the coast guard officers jumped in the water and began blocking the kayaks. They then grabbed the kayaks and began pulling and pushing them back to the shore. SOS members struggled nonviolently with the coast guard who continued to attack them and restrict their rights and freedom without any explanations.
Finally after a lot of struggle, one coast guard official began to announce through a microphone that because there was a the construction site nearby, it might be possible that the SOS members would go inside and doing something illegal. He even referenced the June 30 action when Kim Dong-Won climbed a crane doing illegal dredging. Of course, this is outrageous as not only was Kim Dong-Won not aboard a Kayak but also his case is still currently on trial, meaning he is still innocent until proven guilty. Further it was outrageous that simply because there was a construction site in the area (hundreds of meters away, no where near where SOS was blocked while doing something completely legal in a public place. With that reasoning the police can stop anyone from doing anything if there is ever a chance of something illegal happening, which is always and everywhere!
The struggle continued on and the SOS members went back to shore and then attempted to enter the water at several other places, every time illegally blocked and assaulted by the coast guard. They continued until it began to grow dark. At which point they returned to the land.
It was an outrageous display of police stupidity and power (there were more than 20 coast guard officers to the 4 SOS), and total trampling on the rights of the SOS team members. It is clear that not only is Gangjeong a police occupation, but that the coast guard and the police are nothing more than free taxpayer paid security for construction companies, Samsung and Daelim. Many Korean coast guard members are very nationalistically proud of themselves for being in the coast guard, but they have nothing to be proud of. They are complicit in the destruction of Gangjeong Village, its people, heritage and culture, and the destruction of the environment, including the very sea that they are sworn to protect. This is both pathetic and shameful.
More pictures available below: