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Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Introduces herself to Gangjeong residents.

On June 4, 2013 Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, visited Gangjeong to meet with villagers and activists and see the situation. The visit came as part of a two week visit to South Korea, visiting Korea’s unfortunately numerous sites of struggle for human rights and justice, such as Milyang and Gangjeong.

In the afternoon, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. a meeting was held in the village ceremonial hall with the villagers and activists to hear of their struggle. Sekaggya said that she will take her findings from her visit to Korea and would compile a report to be released in March of 2014. At that time the report will be released to the Human Rights Council in Geneva as well as to the Korean government and publicly.

Upon her arrival many reporters and broadcast news personnel were waiting but following a brief introduction were made to leave and the doors were shut, so that the villagers could speak in private without press intimidation.

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Village Anti-Base Committee Chairman, Goh Gwon-Il, begins the proceedings.

The proceedings were emceed by Village Anti-Base Committee Chairman, Goh Gwon-Il who began giving a detailed overview of the history and facts of Gangjeong and the base project until now, such as the first fake vote and the second real vote where 94 percent of the 725 villagers in attendance voted against the base.

Descriptions of military, construction, and police harassment of villagers and activists followed. A video from 2011 of naval soldiers harassing and fighting with villagers was shown. Then a video of the 4-on-1 water assault on and beating of Dr. Song Kang-Ho by Coast Guard SSU Special Unite Divers in 2011. Next a video was shown of Villagers and activists attempted to climb a barge to talk to the workers and navy, and being beaten and pushed from the boat by workers and the navy.

Next videos were shown of the recent crackdown on the sit-in tents near the gate, including the near hanging on Mayor Kang by careless police and public workers, as well as the police pushing Villager Mi-Lyang off a 6 meter high ledge. Then Mi-Lyang, who is still in the hospital for recovery, came to give her testimony of the situation. It was clearly very difficult for her to speak of the recent traumatic event.

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Villager Kim Mi-Lyang tells about her traumatic fall at the ends of the police.

Then, Catholic Fr. Kim Sung-Hwan came to speak about and show videos of the oppression on the Catholics, including the near death of Father Mun in April of 2012 as well as the pushing over of Father Mun during communion destroying the sacraments, general police oppression and disruption of the daily catholic mass, including the outrageous use of pepper spray on those attending the mass.

Next, tangerine farmer and chairwoman of the Village Women’s Committee to Stop the Base, Jeong Young-Hee, came to talk about and show pictures and videos of further struggles and injuries from police violence as well as base construction pollution damage to crops. After that, Activist Bok-Hee came and talked about oppression on activists including the police and security thug violence at the construction gates, displaying the many injuries. She also emphasized the double standard, that when there are many cameras or visitors, the police are very gentle and polite but when no one is looking they are violent and rude. Next, Activist Youn-Ae came and gave a personal testimony about her life as an anti-base activist and oppression she has faced in Gangjeong.

Tangerine farmer and chairwoman of the Village Women's Committee to Stop the Base, Jeong Young-Hee addresses the panel.

Tangerine farmer and chairwoman of the Village Women’s Committee to Stop the Base, Jeong Young-Hee addresses the panel.

Finally, Activist Sung-Hee came and talked about oppression on internationals, emphasizing detail the stories of Benjamin Monnet and Angie Zelter who were targeted and forcefully deported. She also talked about the recent re-entry denial of long-term Taiwanese Gangjeong resident, Emily Wang, as well as the more than 20 other entry denials and deportations related the anti-base struggle.

After the nearly two hours of detailed explanation by Gangjeong villagers and activists there was a general question and answer time. The UN visitors thanked the people for their testimonies and information and asked what kind of things they would like to see in the report, such as concrete statements or actions or resolutions. Although there wasn’t much time to comment 5 people responded with suggestions.

Finally, Margaret Sekaggya thanked everyone again and apologized for the short time. She also said she felt very well received and also thanked the organizers for organizing everything so well. In the end, she wished the people the best in their continued struggle. Then she went out for a short tour of the village before departure.

 

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