Peace March Jeju Island–Korean Peninsula
Grand peace march for Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, off the Korean peninsula.
Photos by: Lee Woo Ki
In the middle of the summer, Korea was in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave. Nonetheless, throughout the week of July 30 to Aug. 4, in the blistering sun, high humidity, and a passing typhoon, hundreds of people were part of the “Grand Peace March for Gangjeong Village” on Jeju Island, off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. From the village, one group heading east and a second, west, they walked the island’s 2713 km. (1686 miles) circumference to meet in the capital, Jeju City, with this message for the island government: “We will never give in to the naval base in our village!”. Through rural areas and towns, yellow t-shirts proclaimed, “Peace is the answer” and yellow flags waved the message, “we reject the naval base.” Meals were prepared and provided by supportive citizens’ groups in the communities they passed; they slept on beaches, in fields, or in community halls.
Photo by: Jang Hyon Woo
What is the story behind the march? In 2007 Gangjeong, a small rural village of fruit farmers and fishers on the south side of the island, was chosen by the government as the site for a new naval base Immediately the people went to court to try to overturn the decision, but the government, caught up in Obama’s “pivot” of military and foreign policy into Asia-Pacific to “contain” China, prevailed.
With great creativity and boldness they have delayed the base building, drawn attention to the threat it poses to the rare ecology of the area (a United Nations ecological reserve), built a global network of support, and supported each other with extraordinary community spirit.
The Grand March is only the most recent action undertaken by the villagers and their supporters. For over six years they have been resisting the naval base, with support from United Church partners including the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the National Council of Churches in Korea. Catherine Christie, overseas personnel with PROK, regularly participates in actions of prayer and resistance.
Online information is available at www.savejejuisland.org or Facebook page, ‘no naval base on Jeju’.
Photos by: Jang Hyon Woo