Nonviolent protesters arrested in Jeju Island (South Korea) for opposing Naval Base
We reproduce here some background information about the campaign to prevent a Naval Base (considered to be part of the US “Star Wars” antibalistic misile system) to be constructed in Jeju Island. In the last few hours a group of the most central activists have been arrested. Some are facing very significant jail terms as they are already on probation.
The South Korean Government is constructing a naval base on Jeju Island. Officially named the “Island of World Peace” by the late President Roh Moo Hyun, Jeju was the site of a 1948 massacre in which more than 30,000 civilians were estimated to have been slaughtered during a democratic uprising.
Located strategically in the Korea Strait, the island’s potential to become a military target in the event of an armed conflict in this tense region would increase exponentially with the addition of a naval base. The threat this poses to the men, women and children of Jeju Island is unconscionable, and it can be avoided through halting the base construction.
Since plans for the naval base were announced five years ago, 94 percent of Gangjeong residents have voted against the base and used every possible democratic means to block its construction in their pristine fishing village. Yet their protests have fallen on mostly deaf ears.
Jeju Island is situated off the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and covers a lava plateau with a shield volcano at an elevation of 1,950 meters above sea level. The high biological diversity, unique volcanic topography and the culture of Jeju Island attract many tourists.
The home for this proposed military facility is the tiny village of Gangjeong, which is surrounded by three UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites and nine UNESCO Geo-Parks on an island that is designated a Global Biosphere Reserve. Construction is accelerating daily with the dredging of the island’s seabed and its coral communities currently underway.
Many observers of the region believe that the Jeju Island naval base will serve as a port of call for the U.S. military’s sea-based component of its ballistic missile defense system.
This is not only an issue of protecting the environment or preventing military expansion. Human rights and free speech are also at stake. Villagers have been arrested during nonviolent protests. Police and construction workers have assaulted elderly members of the community, who represent a large portion of the activists.