by Choi Sung-hee
While many people were full of positive expectation for peace in Korea as they witnessed the 3rd inter- Korean Summit meeting in Pyeongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 19th, there was a Korean village that could not join such festivities, feeling betrayed and abandoned.
It was Gangjeong village, the Life and Peace village of less than 2,000 population. A village in the south of Jeju, the World Peace Island, located in the south sea below the Korean peninsula. As the world cheered the removal of mines and armaments at joint security area in the Korean DMZ this October, more than 40 warships including 19 international warships from 13 countries were heading to the Jeju navy base located in the Gangjeong village. One of the warships was the U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, homeported in Yokosuka, Japan. It was radiated during the rescue work on the of Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
We had the International Fleet Review in Jeju from Oct. 10-14. For us, it was the ‘ceremony to proclaim the Jeju military base.’ In his speech during the pass-in-review, on Oct. 11, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, welcoming all the warships, declared that ‘peace comes through national defense power,’ and the Jeju navy base would be ‘the stronghold for peace’, as if confirming the abusive title of the fleet review: “Jeju Where Peace Starts.”
Meanwhile, Cho Kyung-chul, a former mayor of village sat in front of the Jeju navy base in protest to the enforced fleet review by the Moon government. Policemen tried to remove him and others away from the gate while a female villager, Kim Mi-ryang climbed up to the top of base gate in protest. However, the most infuriating part on the day occurred after the pass-in- review when Moon made a show of apology for the enforcement of the Jeju navy base construction in a new luxurious community building, surrounded by media reporters who, many of them, wrote later as if the issue of Gangjeong was settled by President Moon’s apology to the villagers who were represented by current mayor, and vice-mayor, of the village.
The truth is that the very ones such as Kang Dong- kyun, a former mayor, Fr. Mun Jeong-hyeon, and other protestors who have struggled against Jeju navy base project for last 11 years were forcefully stopped by the policemen on the street when they tried to protest to Moon face-to-face. In July, Moon’s Presidential House sent its delegates to the village five times, to persuade the villagers to support the fleet review. It was even suggested President Moon’s apology to Gangjeong would be conditioned on the village supporting fleet review. The villagers were annoyed by such a deceptive proposal. There had already been villagers’ official decision against the fleet review in March. However, the new representatives of current village association are unfortunately compromising to the navy. Many of them were inclined toward economic earnings from the fleet review. Finally, a village meeting was held again on July 29 to revisit the issue of the fleet review. The anti-base villagers’ committee boycotted the vote. By the result of suspicious vote, the village association annnounced its acceptance of fleet review. The Jeju Island [regional] Council whose 43 members had all signed the draft for a petition of opposition to the fleet review but cancelled to submit the petition at its main meeting, after its contact with a delegate from the Presidential House. As former mayor Cho would say, Moon brought the 10 year conflict between con and pro base villagers into a new 100 year conflict.
The U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan could enter the Jeju navy base only the day after the pass-in-review ceremony. It is told that our small but courageous kayak team splendidly delayed its entry to the base. The Ronald Reagan docked in the cruise terminal located in the west side of Jeju navy base whose other name is the ‘Beautiful Tourism Port for Civilian Military Complex’.
The Ronald Reagan stayed until Oct. 16th. With its 5,700 crew members and two accompanying U.S. guided missile cruisers’ 600 crew members, the numbers of U.S. soldiers totaled more than 60% of the 10,000 international soldiers who joined the fleet review. On Oct. 15 when there was protest in front of the cruise terminal, a villager was arrested and released the next day.
The lines of tour bus carrying U.S. sailors into the various parts of Jeju Island were endless. People stayed in front of base gate until 1:00 am for protest as those buses returned to gate. They were carried even in police and navy buses. Some sailors were drunk. Whether drunk or not, some of them mocked the protesters, throwing the remarks of sexual harassment, such as ‘I love you.’ Some of them were making gestures of hand kiss. However, the most remarkable word came out from the mouth of a U.S. sailor on the day: “You are the slave.”
On the day, we could realize: The fleet review this year which marks the 70th year of April 3rd uprising and massacre is nothing but declaration of U.S. Navy base on Jeju. For near a week, the UNESCO biosphere designated sea was suffering. There was the leaked oil from two international warships. Water was strangely coming out from the USS Ronald Reagan from which a massive numbers of garbage bags were carried out for disposal in Busan.
But above all, the fleet review was for the Moon government and navy to nail the Jeju navy base as the stronghold for the ‘ocean navy,’ which means the navy aims to extend its activity area ‘beyond Korea.’
Two remarkable bits of news came out during the National Assembly investigation on the government affairs. On Oct. 12, it was known that the navy almost decided to introduce Raytheon’s Standard missile (SM- 3), a key element of missile defense.
The other was navy’s plan to have two operational Commands of which the 2nd Operation Command aims to respond to ‘potential or nonmilitary threat.’ The 2nd Operation Command will be in line with the creation of task fleet Command which ‘would run Aegis-equipped destroyers and submarines.’ Together with aviation Command which will be created also, the task fleet command will compose the 2nd Operation Command. It will be likely that the activities of 2nd Operation Command and introduction of SM-3 would be much related to the Jeju navy base as it homeports the task force and submarine squadrons. It is the homeport of nine South Korean destroyers including three biggest Aegis destroyers in South Korea. And its location is close to China and South China Sea where military tension between U.S. and China is being rapidly escalated.
We became to know later that the reason that China declined to send its warship to the fleet review in Jeju was because one of South Korean destroyers, Munmu, the Great, happened to enter China’s claimed sea territory near the Paracel Islands on Sept. 16, allegedly for the reason of typhoon. The homeport of Munmu, the Great is the Jeju navy base.
On Oct. 26, Jeong Kyeong-doo, Minister of National Defense said that THAAD [ground-based missile defense system] will be officially deployed after the general environmental impact assessment. This brought fury to the people of Soseong-ri, Seongju on the mainland of Korea. They continue to demand the withdrawal of THAAD from their communities. Not only that, the sale of 64 PAC-3 missiles in South Korea has been approved. Cheong Wooksik of the Peace Network notes the U.S. move to integrate THAAD and PAC-3 systems through THAAD radar.
According to Tim Cahill, Lockheed Martin, vice president of air-and-missile defense, such interoperability ‘could open other doors to achieve an even more seamless tiered and layered missile defense capability.’ (Defense News, Oct. 10, 2018) Now with the plan of introduction of SM-3, the U.S.-led multilayer missile defense system in South Korea will be even more extended.
In the ROK-U.S. Security Consultative meeting on Oct. 31, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis ‘reaffirmed the continued U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrence to the ROK using the full range of military capabilities, including U.S. nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities’ which is denial of NK-U.S. Summit meeting in Singapore, June 12, this year. Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea also notes that the international fleet review in Jeju is a part of U.S. plan to make ROK-U.S. alliance for regional and comprehensive alliance.
In his pass-in review speech on Oct. 11, President Moon mentioned Columbus as a historic example who sailed to far away oceans. The originally planned date for pass-in-review was Oct. 12. Columbus stepped on America lands on Oct. 12, 1492. It is not known well he was the merchant of ‘slaves.’
To finally add, 435 internationals including Prof. Noam Chomsky signed on to an international petition in opposition to the fleet review in Jeju. We thank them.
—Sung-hee Choi lives in the Gangjeong village, Jeju Island, South Korea. She is a coordinator of village international team, as well as a Korean advisory board member for the Global Network. www.savejejunow.org
* The article here was orisinally written for the Space Alert published by the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (With a little edit by its editor. ). I slightly revised the text for this site, Save Jeju Now. (A note by By Choi Sung-hee)