Naval Base Construction in Korea

Letter to President Lee Myung Bak of South Korea regarding the construction of a Korean naval base.

January 26, 2012 

Your Excellency
President Lee Myung Bak
Cheongwadae 1
Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu
Seoul 110-820
South Korea 

Mr. President:

We take this opportunity to greet you with warm New Year’s wishes in these winter days.

We, the undersigned, are representatives of various faith communities from Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States, who undertook a visit to Kangjeong Village, Jeju Island on December 5-7, 2011 to learn about the construction of a Korean naval base. We are writing to report on our findings.

As people of faith our commitment is to serve and seek Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation.  All of these aspects are deeply compromised at Kangjeong Village by the construction of this base.

Integrity of Creation – Kangjeong Village and its surrounding area is uniquely beautiful—in fact, it is a UNESCO-designated ecological reserve.  It contains endangered and rare life, both on the water front and the sea bed.  The construction of the naval base will disrupt its water source, and the entire ecosystem.  The people of the community have practiced stewardship of the land and sea for many generations as farmers and fishers, and their way of life will be disrupted.

Justice and Human Rights – The original decision to build in that area was taken in an undemocratic method – at an illegitimate meeting of just a small number of residents, with no real vote taken.  We are told that in the village, a sizeable majority of the people are opposed to the base construction, and on Jeju, well over half of the residents. We met some of the many recent victims of arrests, detainment, and outsized fines among those who have peacefully protested the planned naval base.  And for Korea as a whole, we know that any money spent on military removes that money from society’s needs like education, health care, social services.

Peace – We understand that the based planned for this location contributes to a U.S. strategy to expand its geopolitical and military influence in Asia, to counter the growing military influence of China in the region, which includes the buildup of military capacity in Okinawa, Philippines, even Australia. We fear that this impending naval base will contribute to this military expansion and to an increased flare-up of hostilities and antagonisms.  This would compromise the peace and integrity of Jeju Island, the Korean peninsula, and the region more generally.

THEREFORE, we urge the Korean government to immediately take steps toward reconciliation with the Kangjeong villagers, specifically:

1)      The Republic of Korea should immediately stop construction of the Kangjeong naval base.

2)      The Republic of Korea should immediately stop arresting peaceful protestors and immediately drop any pending charges against the Kangjeong village protestors.

3)      The Republic of Korea should immediately revoke fines and other impending penalties imposed on the villagers as a result of their peaceful protests against the naval base’s construction.

4)      The Republic of Korea and all other concerned parties should recognize and respect the Kangjeong village’s democratic processes, thus allowing all parties to bring reconciliation to the conflicts that have arisen around the base controversy, and to re-establish respect for just, democratic rule of law in Jeju Island.

5)      The Republic of Korea and all other concerned parties should invest in preserving the Kangjeong village’s shoreline ecosystem and designate a peace park where the naval base was to be constructed, as the villagers have requested.

We, in solidarity with all peace-loving communities in the world, will consolidate all our efforts to stop the construction of the naval base.  Mr. President, we ask that you seriously consider the troubling challenges to peace and security, justice, culture, and the environment raised by the plan to construct a naval base in KangJeong Village  and that you will send us a reply to our concerns.

Yours sincerely

Representatives of Jeju International-Interfaith Solidarity Visit,

1.       Ms. Bern JAGUNOS

Program Coordinator for Asia, The United Church of Canada

 

2.       Rev. Dr. Xiaoling ZHU

Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific - Common Global Ministries Board of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

 

3.       Rev. Peter NG

Officer for Anglican Relations and Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific, Global Partnerships Team

 

4.       Mr. Nicholas MELE            

Pax Christi, USA

 

5.       Ms. Sarah DREIER

Legislative Representative for International Policy and Advocacy-Episcopal Church, Washington, DC, USA

 

6.       Mr. NOGUCHI Yoichi

Executive Director, Niwano Peace Foundation, Tokyo, Japan

 

7.       Ven. TAKEDA Takao

Nichirenshu Nihonzan Myohoji

 

8.       Fr. OKURA Kazuyoshi

Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, Toyko, Japan

 

9.       Fr. GOTO Masashi

Catholic Council, Justice and Peace, Hiroshima, Japan

 

10.     Rev. KOBAYASHI Makoto

Member of Executive Council, United Church of Christ in Japan

 

11.     Rev. UEDA Hiroko

Acting General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Japan

 

12.     Rev. PO Kam Cheong

General Secretary, Hong Kong Christian Council and representative for Christian Conference of Asia

 

13.     Ven. JONG Oh

Chair, Korea Sangha Engaged Buddhism

 

14.     Rev. JEOUNG Sang-Duk

General Director, Human Rights Committee of Won Buddhism

 

15.     Fr. PARK Chang-Il

Director, Korea Peace 3000,  

 

16.     Rev. SHIN Bog-Hyun

Acting General Secretary, Korean Methodist Church

 

17.     Rev. JEONG Jin-Woo

Korean Coordinator, Japan/Korea Religious Leaders Forum

 

18.     Rev. LEE Hun-Sam

Executive secretary, Dept. of Justice and Peace, NCCK

 

19.     Rev. SHIN Seung-Min

Executive Secretary, Ecumenical Relations, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea

20.     Rev. Catherine CHRISTIE    

Ecumenical co-worker, PROK and NCCK

 

cc:

Leader, Grand National Party
Leader, Democratic United Party
Commander, ROK Navy   
Ambassador, American Embassy in the ROK
Governor, Jeju Island
Representative, Kangjeong Village