Jan. 23, 2021, marks 5000 days of struggle against the Jeju Naval Base in Gangjeong. Organized opposition to the naval base plans started on May 18, 2007. Over the next 5000 days, the anti-base movement endured attacks on local democratic decision making, false representation in the media, division of the village community, state violence used to suppress nonviolent resistance, destruction of the environment (notably of the Gureombi Rock coastline), and the militarization of Jeju, the supposed “Island of World Peace.” Over those 5000 days, this peace movement was sustained through candle-light gatherings, rallies, marches, community meals, religious ceremonies, appreciation of nature, creative expression through poetry, visual arts, music and dance, and an outpouring of solidarity from all over the globe.
International peace activists recognized that the Jeju Naval Base represented a threat to world peace, and that the peace movement in Gangjeong transcended national borders. Many people came to Gangjeong to join in solidarity against the naval base and many more shared the story of the Gangjeong peace movement with audiences around the world. By standing with the Gangjeong villagers’ struggle, many international activists also experienced oppression by the state: one person received an injunction order, one recieved an exit order, more than 23 people were denied entry to Korea, and more than 12 foreign activists were arrested.
Gangjeong international team collected solidarity messages in honor of Gangjeong’s 5000 days’ struggle against the Jeju Naval Base:
From Rev. Catherine Christie, National Council of Churches in Korea
5000 Days! My good friends of Gangjeong, warm greetings and hope for continuing strength. As I came to Korea in 2010 to work with the National Council of Churches in Korea, it was becoming deeply involved in the struggle of Gangjeong villagers. My first visit was in August 2011, with a delegation from Christian Council of Asia invited by the NCCK. That was before the fence totally surrounded Gureombi. We worshipped on Gureombi, heard the story of the Naval base, joined the Catholic Mass and the evening candlelight vigil with the villagers. A few weeks later the fence was completed, amid our great grief. In March 2012 I was in Seoul at a protest when news came the first blasting of Gureombi had begun. [Regina Pyon] was there too, and we wept together. My involvement with Gangjeong Village was one of the high points of my ministry in Korea. All the blessings of Life, Love and Peace be with you all.
From Ramsay Liem, Emeritus Professor, Boston College, Channing and Popai Liem Education Foundation
The Essence of Korea’s Pride – The Gangjeong Struggle – Many of my Korean American students tell me that K-Pop, Korean Dramas, Samsung, Hyundai, and the like are the reasons they have pride in their homeland. These are the visible symbols of the miracle on the Han River for them. What they do not understand, however, is the long and arduous struggle of Korean workers, farmers, and everyday citizens to build a truly just and democratic state out of the ashes of war in the face of powerful state and external antidemocratic forces. No better example exists than the Gangjeong villagers and their supporters who have sacrificed land, livelihoods, and bodies to fight the militarization of their island by state and foreign interests. The fortitude of the Gangjeong peace-makers is extraordinary and an example of Korea’s truest gift to peace-loving people of the world. Your 5000 day struggle is an inspiration to all and teaches us that the human capacity to seek justice is boundless.
From Kyle Kajihiro, Cancel RIMPAC Coalition, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Aloha friends in Jeju! Congratulations on this important milestone: 5000 days of struggle to keep Jeju as an island of peace. I fell in love with Jeju when I visited early in the struggle when the naval base plans were first announced. Volcanic peaks, lush forests, black lava shores, seas teeming with life, stone grandparents protecting villages—it looked and felt like Hawaiʻi, my home. Thank you for teaching and inspiring us with your creative, joyful, and fierce spirit of struggle. I will always remember your yellow banners fluttering over blue water as the image of our solidarity across the sea.
From Angie Zelter, founder of Trident Ploughshares and co-founder of the International Woman’s Peace Service
The ‘struggle against’ that continues in Gangjeong affects us all wherever we live. It is a struggle against militarism, fear and corporate power, and for real democracy, justice, equity, and peace. I was inside the naval base on 7th March 2012 when they blew up the Gureombi rock. It was a sad and shocking day when the military and corporations showed their abusive power to destroy. But it was also a time of solidarity and connection across cultures and between global peace lovers. We did not stop the explosions that day but we spoke truth to power, acting together, as we continue to do, for a better more humane and compassionate world.
From Lina Koleilat, ethnographer and historian at Australian National University
5000 days of everyday resistance, 5000 days of protest, of tears and joy, of disappointment and hope. 5000 days of prayers and lunches and dance. Visitors come and go, some from mainland, some from across the continents, but you stayed, you stayed rooted but not static. Respect to your resistance to militarism, to war and to empire. Respect to all of you beautiful people who have persevered for the rock, for the dolphins, for the sea and for all of us. Your daily struggle inspire us all! Strength and power to you all from Ngunnawal and Ngambri country from so called Australia. Sending you all big hugs!
From Takahashi Toshio, Okinawa Korea People’s Solidarity
What stands out in my memory is Sept. 5, 2012, when 10 people came from Okinawa to join the symposium in conjunction with the IUCN and to have an exchange program in Gangjeong. 4 of us were denied entry at Incheon Airport, and another person coming from Tokyo was also denied entry. (see photo.) I think that the Korean government denied us entry as we were going to Gangjeong from Okinawa and Japan because they were extremely frightened that the whole world would hear about the problem of the outrageous Jeju naval base construction. With support from people seeking peace all around the world, we struggle against the Jeju Naval Base, and through international solidarity for human rights and peace in Okinawa, we will resist against the new base construction at Henoko, as well. We are with you. Be strong! Peace! Solidarity!
①一番記憶に残っていることは、2012年9月5日、済州で開かれたIUCNと同時開催のシンポジウムと江汀交流のために、仁川空港に到着した沖縄からの参加者10数名のうち、私を含めて4名が入国拒否され、同じく東京から到着した1名も入国拒否をされたことです。（写真添付）②韓国政府は、非道な済州海軍基地建設問題が、世界中に知れ渡ることを、極度に恐れていたため、沖縄·日本から江汀に向かう私たちの入国を拒否したのだと思います。平和を希求する世界中の人々が心を寄せる江汀の海軍基地反対闘争、沖縄も人権·平和の国際連帯で辺野古新基地建設を阻止します。함께 하겠습니다. 투쟁! 평화! 연대! -高橋年男
Eiji Tomita, Okinawa Korea People’s Solidarity
What stands out in my memory is being denied entry to Korea when I traveled with Tomiyama-san and Takahashi-san from Okinawa Korea People’s Solidarity to join the struggle against the navy base in Gangjeong; Tomiyama-san and I were denied entry two times. I cannot forget the delight of living together during a week-long international exchange program for the first time, nor the the rigorousness of the struggle. The sirens suddenly sounded, and people ran to the base construction entrance and started their sit-in protest. I was surprised and inspired to see some women resist by wrapping their bodies in metal chains.
From Nisei Yuko, a Japanese-Korean living in Okinawa
I first learned about the Gangjeong struggle in Okinawa when I met Peace Wind members who were struggling against the navy base. Peace cannot be achieved by weapons. This fact is proven through the witness of human history. The human determination expressed in the steadfast solidarity of Gangjeong and Okinawa represents hope for the future. We need the ability to increase human imagination, not through hostility, but through peace. People in any era know that only those who do not carry weapons will build true peace. That is how I want to live.
오키나와에서 해군기지 반대 투쟁을 진행하는 “평화바람 “식구하고 만난것이 강정투쟁을 알게 된 출발이다. 평화는 무기로는 이룩할 수 없다.그것은 인류 역사가 증명하는 사실. 강정 그리고 오키나와에서 꾸준히 연대하는 인간의 의지는 미래에 남기는 소원이다. 인간의 상상력을 적대가 아니고 평화로 높일 노력이 필요하다. 사람들은 어떤 시대에도 무기를 안 가지는 사람만이 진실 평화를 짓겠다고 알 것이다. 나는 그렇게 살고 싶습니다. -오키나와 在住 재일동포 二世 兪渶子
From Merci Llarinas-Angeles, Peace Women Partners, Philippines
Support statement for Jeju on its 5000 Days of Struggle – “They may build the base on your land and waters, but do not let them conquer your spirit!” I spoke this at the Closing Ceremony of the Grand March for Life and Peace which I joined in 2015. Since then I have expressed my solidarity by writing and speaking about your brave struggle in the Philippines and other venues. You inspire me because you continue to plant seeds, harvest and dance to show that you will never give up. I can see that the forces of tyranny will lose their power, but the villagers of Gangjeong will not!
From Corazon Fabros, Vice President, International Peace Bureau
Gangjeong struggle is always in my heart since first visit in 2010 with No Bases friends from US, Okinawa, Guam and Korea. A meaningful, powerful learning experience on the struggle of people’s strong will to stop the base construction, that I promised to include Jeju as part of my No Bases advocacy. My second visit in 2018 was full of memories of Gureombi rocks where I once sat looking at the open unobstructed beautiful peaceful sea, feeling in my heart the strong determination of the people and prayed hard for those who lost their lives, imprisoned, sacrificed time and energy to fight. 5000 Days of the Gangjeong struggle represents a powerful peoples resistance and international solidarity that will lead to victory no matter how long and difficult it will take.
From Fr. Pat Cunningham, Columban Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Coordinator in Seoul
Many congratulations to all those who have played a part in the 5000 day struggle. As a missionary living in Korea I was grateful for the many opportunities to accompany International peace activists to Gangjeong. As an Irish man I was particularly happy to accompany Peadar King and the Irish documentary film crew during the shooting of ‘Jeju’s Aching Heart’. During the interviews I was able to get a first hand impression of deep personal agony and pain felt by the local residents and activists in their desperate struggle to resist the South Korean state as the police closed off access to the villagers’ sacred Gureombi. The short film also highlights the ongoing international dimension of the struggle which continues to this day as the local peace community continues to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the face of state oppression. Many congratulations on reaching this notable landmark in the ongoing struggle.
From Gloria Steinem (feminist journalist and activist) and Christine Ahn (Women Cross DMZ),
A Message of Love, Hope and Gratitude
We grew up in different times and on opposite coasts of the US, yet in August, 2011, we both wrote op-eds in The New York Times condemning the construction of a [de facto] US Naval Base on Jeju Island, just off the coast of South Korea.
Jeju, a jewel of an island is certainly one of the most beautiful places on earth. As Gloria wrote in The Arms Race Intrudes on Paradise, “[T]his naval base is not only an environmental disaster on an island less than two-thirds the size of Rhode Island, it may be a globally dangerous provocation besides.”
We lost that struggle. A once pristine fishing village has become a US military base, all in the name of protecting against China. Yet we remain united in our protection of Jeju Island, a paradise of beaches, ancient trees, and wild flowers blooming on warm volcanic slopes. Long called the Island of the Gods, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and listed as one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
All of us in the struggle to preserve Jeju Island have this goal in our daily consciousness, and maintain the friendships formed during our struggle to support the villagers of Gangjeong, those most threatened by the U.S. naval base. We’ve forged lasting friendships, and included Jeju Island in our lives.
For instance, Christine realized she was pregnant in Gangjeong, and upon returning to the US, she was harassed by the Lee Myung-bak Administration in South Korea for writing about her opposition to the [de facto] US base. When she called the South Korean Embassy to register her complaint, they responded, “Don’t call us, call the U.S. State or Defense Departments, they are the ones pressuring us to build this base.”
Gloria’s friendship helped Christine survive the attacks. When her beautiful daughter was born, Christine named her Jeju, as the spirit of the Gangjeong villagers was in her womb.
Altogether, Jeju, long known as the island of peace and women, is inspiring the next generation of peace activists who will build a world free from war and violence.
Thanks to the Gangjeong resistance, our friendship spawned many more pathbreaking peace initiatives, including the creation of Women Cross DMZ, which organized the 2015 women’s DMZ crossing, and the Korea Peace Now! transnational feminist campaign. On this historic anniversary of 5,000 days since the struggle began, we hope you can look back at the incredible impact you have made on so many people’s lives, peace movements, and our world.
From Lindis Percy, Co-Founder of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases UK
To say when and why I visited South Korea in July 2017 for 12 nights – The visit included 3 nights on Jeju Island and Gangjeong village. I co-founded the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases in 1992.
I was the guest of the People’s Democracy Party (PDP). The invitation came three weeks after a very short and hastily organised visit to Harrogate, (where we live) by three members of a PDP Peace Delegation. They arrived late in the afternoon and stayed with us for one night. We visited NSA/NRO Menwith Hill, (below) a significant US intelligence gathering and surveillance base near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK.
We stayed on for the weekly Tuesday evening demonstration and went out for a meal afterwards. This demonstration was started in 2000 by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), and has continued uninterrupted (except for five Tuesdays,) ever since. The PDP left for London to continue their programme. A month later I received an invitation from the PDP to go to South Korea.
CAAB had supported this extraordinary and inspirational campaign for a number of years. During the three days we were on Jeju island I met many wonderful and courageous people. I learnt about the history of occupation by foreign forces. Every day I spoke at meetings, demonstrations and gave several press interviews.
1. A moment that stands out in my memory from the Gangjeong struggle
I was thrilled to meet Sung-Hee (last in Seoul in 2009) who organized a very interesting day on July 7th. We visited Gangjeong village and the Peace Centre where an illustrated history of the people’s resistance against the construction of the Jeju naval base hangs on panels suspended from the ceiling. It is a meeting place and a wonderful centre for peace. I met the amazing Father Mun and joined in the daily Mass. We took part in the daily demonstrations at the main gate to the now completed and vast Jeju naval base, a ROK construction for the US military.
2. A way that the Gangjeong struggle has influenced me
There are many ways that I have been inspired by the examples of so many people engaged with this struggle – never giving up. Often against so many odds and violent actions by the police. I am moved by the commitment they have given over many years and still they steadfastly oppose what has happened. I saw why this was. The destruction of ancient and precious Gureombi rock formation is terrible, irreplaceable and in its place – war fighting and conflict.
3. The 5000 days of the Gangjeong struggle have for Jeju / Korean / international society? Why?
The Gangjeong struggle is a strong lesson for us all. For we are stewards of this planet and must be vigilant as to the dangers from fighting forces who are determined to destroy so much, so as to build more and more systems and structures for war – regardless what’s in their way. We must work to leave the world in a better state and to hand on to the next generation.
For too many words – apologies. Thank you for your tireless work – greeting, solidarity and love to you all.
From Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space