Re-post from here

Rebecca Johnson’s letter to Governor Woo

 

Princeton University, New Jersey, USA
November 16, 2011

Dear Governor Woo,

I was privileged to be invited to speak at the recent UN-ROK Conference on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament held at the Shilla Hotel(* Samsung owned) in Jeju on November 7-8, 2011. At the dinner that you so kindly hosted I was delighted to hear you speak of your desire to see Jeju Island recognised as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature as well as an Island of World Peace. Together with the UNESCO triple-crowned status, Jeju island is among the world’s most precious cultural and national treasures.

I was also very impressed with the peaceful protesters who came to talk to us about the way in which construction of a new and unnecessary naval base for submarines and Aegis destroyers is causing desecration of Gangjeong village and coastal waters. When the UN Conference ended I went to Gangjeong to see for myself, and was shocked at the devastation being inflicted on this beautiful part of the world. I met Catholic priests, fruit farmers, village leaders and Haenyo divers and heard how the base construction — and in particular the planned detonation of explosives at Gureombi — will devastate their fishing areas and could destroy their livelihoods forever.

I have worked on disarmament issues for many years, and have studied the negative impact of military bases for local populations. As well as destroying the livelihoods of local farmers and the famous Haenyo sea women, the Gangjeong naval base will increase the risks of rape and other forms of violence against women and girls. As it destroys traditional fishing and agricultural jobs, the base will cause an upsurge in prostitution and erode women’s rights, security and safety. Is this what you want on Jeju Island?

I have just heard that Gureombi is scheduled to be blasted open on November 18. I beg you to have this irrevocable destruction of the seabed halted immediately.
As I learned on my visit, the marine ecosystem connected with Gureombi is a precious heritage of the South Korean people and must be protected and preserved. The destruction of Gureombi threatens the surrounding marine life, the traditional Haenyo fishing areas, and the clean water that farmers and villagers depend upon for their survival.

You have the power to stop the use of explosives at Gureombi and Gangjeong, and I appeal to you to halt this violence as a matter of the greatest immediacy and urgency.

You also have the power to order the Navy to stop construction of the naval base so that the interests of Jeju Islanders can be properly considered and assessed. If it is not already clearly recognised what a crime of vandalism will be committed if these explosions and the construction of this unnecessary naval base go ahead, at least halt the construction so that an independent environmental and cultural impact assessment can be conducted before any further violence and desecration are inflicted on the environment and Jeju people.

I am sure that you do not want your legacy to be the governor who enabled the destruction of this unique natural environment and site of ancient Korean relics. I am convinced you would rather be remembered as a protector of democracy and peace on Jeju Island rather than the person who destroyed the livelihoods of local villagers and opened the door to the rape and prostitution of Jeju women – a human rights violation that invariably accompanies military bases such as that which is being planned.

I appeal to you to act with the wise foresight of which I know you are capable and put a stop to the blasting of Gureombi and the wanton destruction of Gangjeong for a naval base that is not needed for South Korean security and which the vast majority of local people oppose. Uphold the principles you expressed at the UN meeting and your promises to those who elected you and stop the blast and construction immediately.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Rebecca Johnson
President, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN Europe, Middle East, Africa)

Dr Rebecca E. Johnson
Executive Director
Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
24 Colvestone Crescent
London E8 2LH
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 207 503 8857
mob: 07733360955
website: www.acronym.org.uk

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Peace activist Rebecca Johnson visits the Jeju Island naval base site

(Video by No Base Jeju Island)

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