On March 29, 2012, Lim Ho-Young, media team leader of Gangjeong village was arrested under the charge of ‘obstruction on government affairs’ while he protested against police who ordered unidentified civilian-costumed men to take camera shots of people, which was illegal. During the arrest, he was kicked in the knee and hit in the face with camera, bleeding in his forehead. On April 2, Wooki Lee has visited Lim currently being held at the prison in the Jeju Dongbu Police Station. On the day the court made decision to imprison Lim and he is moved to be prison on April 6. The following is a transcript of the handwritten letter Lee received from Lim on April 2.
I’m doing all right. They’ve issued a warrant for my arrest today and for some reason, I feel all the more composed for it. Even as I was being arrested two days ago, I didn’t think anything too serious would happen. But once the police investigation began, I realized that the authorities had plenty of charges already prepared for me.
I’m beginning to come to terms with the actions of the Navy and local police, since I must have been quite the nuisance for them all this time. The police have assessed my charges as having “deliberately caused aggression with the police by recording video footage, manipulating this footage in a malicious way, and spreading this distorted information to the public by posting it online.”
I couldn’t help but laugh for a while on this note. Is this really how far Korea’s police intelligence has declined? I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t possess any video-editing skills. And I have no memory of posting any footage of conflict with the police online. Furthermore, I haven’t had the time to post any kind of footage online since late last year. All I can think of relating to footage would be the few instances in which I provided on-site footage to Dungree.
If this is what the police have reduced me to, what more could I possibly expect from them? Even at a stretch, no more than 30% of their claims against me are true. I’m sure most of these charges will be cleared in court, but nevertheless I have been arrested and must prove myself before a judge. I’ve been placed in a dire situation in which I cannot gather enough information and evidence to prove my case. This is an unjust treatment by the face of justice itself, to say the least.
How the Navy has handled the matter is even more appalling. On March 8th, a scuffle broke out with Navy soldiers by the main gate of the naval base. Captain Tae-yang Lee of the Korean Navy has falsely testified that I assaulted him during this incident, hitting him with my fist once on the face, and twice with my camera. That bastard! Tae-yang Lee is the one who assaulted Dr. Kang-ho Song on June 20th last year, kicking him over ten times when he climbed up a barge. And on March 8th, he just started to attack me the moment he saw me, hitting me on the face with his fist despite the fact that I had glasses on. He eventually broke my glasses and the lens fell out. I was indeed furious at his irrational behavior, which led me to thump him a few times on the head with my right hand, the hand that had been holding my camera. I did not hit him with much force, let alone downright assail him as he had done to me and Dr. Song. Why is it that every single time, the Navy refuses to acknowledge their own mistakes and claims that they were the ones getting assaulted?
Captain Lee also testified that I damaged federal property by tearing off a large part of the fence surrounding the naval base. It’s a steel-plated fence that sits two meters high, which they claim originally cost about \500,000 ($500). This may seem an absurd price for a flimsy fence, but keeping in mind that this is the same Navy that managed to pay a whopping \1,000,000 ($1000) for a lousy USB drive, I guess such things might not be so absurd after all.
Truth of the matter is, I didn’t tear down that fence on purpose and with my two hands. I was clutching onto the fence when Navy soldiers on the other side of it kicked me repeatedly, causing part of the fence to tear in the process. This can be clearly seen in the video footage the police have recorded as evidence of the scene. This ridiculous pincer operation between the police and the Navy has led to my official arrest today.
I fear that I will have to remain like this for at least another two months. I believe they’re trying to stop us and weigh us down by imprisoning our bodies and ultimately abusing governmental authority. If we were to let such things strike us with fear and break our spirits, then we’d be doing nothing more than falling in according to their calculations. It will prove a struggle, no doubt, but we need to stand strong against their unwarranted actions. Authority and arrest is not what we should fear.
Writing this letter has helped me come to terms with my frustrations. I’m sorry for not being able to stand among you all, and the townspeople of Gangjung, but I have hope and I believe there will be something I can achieve in my place here. What pains me the most is that I won’t be able to keep the promise I made to my son, to go and see him when he enters sixth grade next week. I find comfort in knowing that my son is a strong, good-hearted child who will understand the situation his father is in. Still, it would have been nice to have been able to congratulate him in person for becoming vice president of the student council…
I’m planning to spend my time on reading books now. It was something I had always wanted to do during my time in Gangjung. I’ll reflect upon all the moments I had in Gangjung, and every single person I met there. I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to be with you all. The past eleven months I spent in Gangjung have truly been the most meaningful moments of my life, and I know all of you feel the same way. I know it’s a tough struggle, but let’s not lose hope and keep going strong. It may not be the time right now, but in the end, there will come a time when we can all smile together.
March 31st, 2012
(Translated by Stefanie Hong)
(Thanks to Jungmin Choi to arrange translation request)
It was known to be later that the violence by the Gwangju riot police was one of the worst that has occurred in the struggle against naval base. On the day, the police broke off fingers, arms of a man and threw down him who protested against violent arrest of Mr. Lim. The police also ignoring women’s human rights, brutally carried away women as part of attempt to scatter people, touching their bodies. The police also took away a woman’s mobile phone and hit her back head when she protested it. The police also used slanders to protesters and scolded a villager whose garlic field was trampled down by them, saying, “Why are you agitated for such minor thing?”
Dungree video on the day, including the scene of arrest of Mr. Lim Ho-Young
The activists’ account can be seen here and here.
Mr. Lim Ho-Young’s handwriting received on April 2, 2012. He was injured in his forehead when he was arrested on March 29, 2012.