On Wednesday, June 12, The Gangjeong International Team hosted an International Solidarity Talkshow during the daily candlelight vigil/gathering time in the Gangjeong Peace Center. The show highlighted recent solidarity trips taken by Gangjeong villagers and activists. There were three guest to the “show”. The first was Mayor Kang, who recently returned from Berkeley, California, where he attended and participated in the Moana Nui 2013 Conference on June 1 and 2. Moana Nui is an international solidarity gathering, hosted of people from by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) and Pua Mohala I Ka Po, in cooperation with Oceanic Coalition of Northern California (OCNC). The theme was “PEOPLES OF THE PACIFIC–CONFRONTING MILITARIZATION, RESOURCE THEFT, GLOBALIZATION & THE PACIFIC PIVOT”. 45 speakers from 20 nations were there, including Mayor Kang, who spoke about the Gangjeong struggle as a Pacific resistance movment.
Second, Village Women’s Committee Chairwoman Jeong Young-Hee, who recently returned from an extensive speaking tour across the U.S., including Hawaii. For around 20 days starting at the end of April, she visited 6 different areas including Hawaii, Boston, Maine, New York, San Francisco and LA. There she shared about Gangjeong and her personal struggle at a variety of events, including a shared talk with Professor Noam Chomsky. And third, Dr. Song Kang-Ho (Brother Song) who has just come back from a trip to Okinawa. He was invited for May 18 which was the 40th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa from U.S. Control back to Japanese administration. Aside from joining the events, he visited many areas to share about Jeju and talk about the movement for demilitarized peace island solidarity. For International Team member Silver was the host and emcee for the night, creating both a fun and thoughtful atmosphere. The “stage” was decorated with signed flags and signs of solidarity which the guests brought back with them.
The evening began with a trivia contest, with questions related to trips or the trip areas. Prizes included Jeju tangerine chocolate, solidarity t-shirts, and Indonesian coffee. After that each person was asked to give a 5 minute summary of their trip with pictures if they had them. It closed with a question and answer time.
During his talk and while answering questions, Mayor Kang said that he was impressed by the progressive atmosphere of Berkeley and felt that although it was home to many nobel prize winners, many people lived very frugally and not in a flashy manner. He also shared that he met many people from across the pacific ocean especially from small islands, and from them he found that they too were suffering like Jeju because of the endless pursuit of capital, neo-liberalism, and militarism. And they were all victims of war during WW2. He said that America claims they are working for “world security” with a “peace force” but in reality they are tormenting these small islands. He said he believes that Inter-Island Solidarity for Just Peace, beginning with a triangle of Okinawa, Taiwan, and Jeju is possible, because at the conference he felt a pressing need for forging bonds of solidarity at the conference. He also shared that in Berkeley there was a large 2000 year-old-tree which had a large hole in it that he could even climb inside. They were conserving that tree there and he was impressed and respected their effort to preserve their environment. On the other hand, I felt sad that America keeps its own values but at the same time seeks to destroy others values.
Among other things, Chairwoman Jeong told a story about an almost 70 year old native woman activist who she met in Hawaii and was very impressed by. She lost her parents when she was very young. Even back when her grandfather was still alive, that time was the 100th anniversary of U.S. colonization of Hawaii. Until now she has been working with dedication to recover Hawaii and has been to prison for her struggle. Also she met many Korean-American activists in the U.S. and was very impressed that even though Gangjeong is not their hometown they work hard to fight for Gangjeong. She said she was encouraged a lot by many American’s support for the Gangjeong struggle, but at the same time many overseas Koreans and Korean-Americans who were indifferent. She said that she even yelled at one guy who seems like a Korean government agent. She also shared that she learned a lot from the experience and she hoped that other villagers would get a chance to do the same.
Finally, Brother Song talked about the similarities between Jeju, Taiwan, and Okinawa. He said that all of them have similar histories and are suffering by powerful countries in similar ways. In the effort to create the Inter-Island Solidarity for Just Peace Movement, he suggested that we start with these three places as a “trial triangle”. He told the story of an island controlled by Taiwan called “Lanyu” were China discarded nuclear waste there without discussion. It is ironic that all of the most beautiful islands are destroyed by powerful nations. He then shared that the islands which are weaker than Jeju need our solidarity and experience. Meanwhile, Okinawa which has fought for more than 68 years has managed to get some land back from bases but all the land is very polluted. However, more than land contamination, spiritual contamination is more dangerous. In Okinawa, there is an place called, “American Village” where the land has been returned. But the land was contaminated and the economy was dependent on the base, so the people struggled and eventually created an American style village to service U.S. military members, so that they could survive. He said that we need a strong vision for peace so that even if our land is contaminated and the base is built our spirit will not be contaminated. For example, in Gangjeong we can create spaces for peace activists to migrate, give land for refugees, build a peace park, and do peace education, basically creating one big peace village. To gather islands for the Inter-Island Solidarity for Just Peace movement, he suggested sailing on a boat between the islands. He also invited people from around the world to join the every-seven-year-event of the WCC (World Council of Churches) in Busan, Korea this October, where Gangjeong and the Inter-Island Solidarity for Just Peace Movement will be holding a workshop during the forum.