Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Images from Gangjeong Village

Banners are hanging all over the village

Blocking Navy base gate with new barracks for sailors in the background

I am staying at the new Francis Peace Center

The 'restaurant' where free meals are served each day.  The Navy is expected to try to take this land next

The Navy base fence with their poster proclaiming the base to be a military-civilian port, would be the only one in the world.  The US Navy would never allow civilian ships to be parked anywhere near their nuclear subs, aircraft carriers and Aegis destroyers. 

Tangerine trees growing inside green houses with Mt. Halla in the background

The Navy base destruction on what used to be sacred Gureombi rock

One of the scrappy nuns at the front gate

Messages on an old wooden pallet


The peace center (were meetings are held) in the middle of the village

The river that flows into the sea on one end of the Navy base


Tiger Island just offshore.  Endangered soft coral forests are near the island and have already been severely impacted by the dredging to allow big US warships into the new base

Wildflower's art studio inside a converted shipping container
Dinner last night with some of the folks and then quick visit to beautiful view of the ocean (activist on right runs the Italian restaurant we went to and drove us back and forth in her vehicle)

Gureombi rock on my first visit to Gangjeong village before the Navy destroyed the place 
 
My first visit to Gangjeong village in 2009 being shown the area where the Navy base will be built.  Since that time I've tried my best to help build solidarity for the struggling village and I will continue to do so as long as I can.


Click on any of the photos for a better view.....

Resisting Chevron Pipeline

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It is becoming clear that the situation here is moving toward an escalation point. Chevron has set up a base in Houston in order to do work on the section of Pacific Trails Pipeline that crosses our traditional territory.

In recent days a low-flying helicopter has flown over the camp several times following a route that corresponds to the path of the proposed PTP pipeline. We were also visited by the head of the RCMP detachment who clearly stated to Freda that they intend to “ensure the work crews can do their work safely.”

Our supporters maintaining an Unist’ot’en [People of the Headwaters] check point on Chisolm Rd were also visited and threatened by the police. In both cases, the officers asserted that we could be arrested for blocking a “public road”.

It is clear by the timing of these recent police actions that they are working in tandem with the pipeline companies.

We have made it clear to the police and industry that we are not blockading the road. We are establishing check-points on the boundaries of our unceded Unist’ot’en territories. People and companies who gain our consent are allowed to enter.

Many of you have visited our yintah (territory) and have experienced first-hand our critical infrastructure of water, salmon, berries and medicines. We are determined to protect this land for future generations, and in the process do our bit to shut down the toxic fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens all forms of living life on this planet.

At this time we would like to ask our supporters for the following things:

1) If you have been to our camp before and/or if you feel comfortable to put your self on the front-line to stand with us against Chevron, you can register here:

http://wildcoast.ca/caravan

2) If you are unable to assist in person but would like to send financial support to help us with equipment and operational costs, donations can be sent by email transfer to fhuson(at)gmail.com (please send separate email with security answer)

Or if you would like to donate online you could contribute to the Healing Centre fundraiser: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/axsMd/ab/24dGu0

Cheques can be made out to “Tse Wedi Elth”, 620 CN Station Rd, Smithers, BC, V0J 2N1.

3) You could organize solidarity actions where you live, either against Chevron directly or one of their investors.

Sne Kal Yah!

Unist’ot’en Camp

U.S. Stirring Up Trouble on Korean Peninsula


US - South Korea Exploiting DMZ Mine Incident to Divert Attention from Anti-N Korea Provocations

By Stephen Gowans |

I have no idea how it transpired that mines linked to the DPRK (North Korea) that severed the legs of two south Korean soldiers in the demilitarized zone earlier this month came to be where they were, anymore than Washington, Seoul or The New York Times does. But I do know that the set of possible explanations contains more than the single explanation favored by the south Korean and US governments and the Western media, that the mines were deliberately planted by North Korean soldiers as part of an “ongoing pattern of provocation.” I also know that neither Seoul nor Washington are likely to let any opportunity pass to resolve ambiguity into the certainty that the north Koreans, repeatedly denounced in Western propaganda as “belligerent”, have deliberately provoked tensions. The Western propaganda system has a confirmatory bias. All acts of North Koreans must be construed as belligerent, with every act so construed reinforcing the theory.

But there are alternative, and more likely, explanations.

One offered immediately after the event was that flooding or shifting soil had led mines to drift from another location. The New York Times’ Korea correspondent Choe Sang-hun reported on August 10 [1] that “Old mines loosed by floodwaters … pose a risk for soldiers serving in the zone. In 2010, dozens of North Korean land mines moved into the South through floodwaters, killing one villager and scaring vacationers away from rivers and beaches near the border.” Indeed, so heavily mined is the area “that wild deer sometimes step on them, causing blasts.” What’s more, “116 villagers have been killed by mines in Gangwon, one of the two South Korean provinces on the border with the North.”

In light of the large number of mines in the zone, and the scores of accidental deaths the mines have caused, it hardly seems that an accident is completely out of the question as an explanation for the tragedy of August 4. On the contrary, it seems to be a probable explanation.

Nevertheless, the probable explanation has been “ruled out” without explanation by Seoul and the “U.N. Command”, the latter presented in press reports as a neutral body, when, indeed, it is none other than the US military. The attempted deception of portraying US occupying forces as impartial observers is necessary to invest the accusation against North Korea with weight, since no one of an unbiased mind reasonably expects Washington to have a neutral attitude toward a country whose government it has been trying to bring down for the past 65 years.

By blaming North Korean for the tragedy, the US-led duo, patron and client, is deflecting attention from its own actual provocations of North Korea by inventing provocations on the North Korean side.

August 17 marked the beginning of joint US-South Korean war games targeted at North Korea, known as Ulji Freedom Guardian. These follow North Korea-targeted war games carried out earlier this year by the United States, South Korea, Britain, Australia and Canada. North Korea poses a vanishingly small offensive military threat to the US client state on the south of the peninsula. At $39 billion annually, Seoul’s military budget towers over Pyongyang’s comparatively meagre $10 billion annual expenditure. Adding decisively to the imbalance is the presence of nearly 30,000 US troops—and advanced US military hardware—on Korean soil, to say nothing of 45,000 US troops in nearby Japan, or the strategic nuclear missiles the United States targets on North Korea.

Contrary to a favored Western deception, the US war games on the Korean peninsula are not defensive; they’re part of a decades-long effort of low intensity warfare carried out by the United States and its client regime whose aim is to sabotage the small North Korean economy by forcing Pyongyang onto a perpetual war footing in which scarce resources are diverted from the civilian economy to defense. North Korea’s small economy can hardly support the expenditures on a conventional military necessary to deter aggression by South Korea and its behemoth patron. But this it must do, and is part of the reason why it has developed a nuclear shield.

The North Koreans face an unenviable choice: to keep up their guard at the expense of their economy, or let it down and face invasion and coerced absorption into the United States’ informal empire. As North Korea’s Workers’ Party puts it, “In actuality, the U.S. is plugging the DPRK into an arms race through ceaseless war drills and arms build-up in a sinister bid to throw hurdles in its efforts to develop its economy and improve the standard of its people’s living.” [2]

Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, much are they’re portrayed to be provocative, are not a threat to Washington or Seoul. There’s much talk of “denuclearizing” the Korean peninsula, which is nothing more than a call for North Korea to remove a formidable obstacle to the United States fulfilling its agenda of chasing the anti-imperialists out of Pyongyang. Korea will never be denuclearized in any meaningful way so long as US strategic nuclear weapons are, or are able to be, targeted on North Korea—which is to say, so long as the United States maintains a nuclear arsenal. And since there’s no chance that Washington will voluntarily relinquish its nuclear weapons anytime soon, if ever, all talk of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula is simply a conversation about North Korea’s capitulation.

Fortunately, the disasters visited upon Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam in Iraq in voluntarily disarming under US pressure have not gone unnoticed by Pyongyang, which recognizes the advantages of having, in a very small quantity, the WMD the United States possesses in vast numbers. The lesson the DPRK drew from Libya was that the only guarantee of peace on the Korean peninsula is a powerful military, backed by nuclear weapons. [3] Others have acknowledged this, as well. “Who would have dared deal with Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein if they had a nuclear capability?” asks Major General Amir Eshel, chief of the Israeli army’s planning division. “No way.” [4]

Calling for North Korea to denuclearize, without first calling for the United States to do the same, is logically indefensible. Since the cause of Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons is to deter an aggressive nuclear armed predatory state, it follows that the only way in which the Korean peninsula can be disarmed meaningfully is to remove the root cause of its nuclearization, which means bilateral disarmament, and not North Korea surrendering its nuclear weapons unilaterally while the United States retains the capability to turn North Korea into a “charcoal briquette,” as a former head of the Pentagon once threatened. And just to be clear about who the aggressor is, consider that, according to declassified and other US government documents, from “the 1950s’ Pentagon to today’s Obama administration, the United States has repeatedly pondered, planned and threatened the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea,” [5] and importantly, during most of those years North Korea was a non-nuclear weapons state. These documents, along with the public statements of senior US officials, point to an ongoing pattern of US nuclear intimidation of the DPRK.

• The United States introduced nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula as early as 1950. [6]

• During the Korean War, US president Harry Truman announced that the use of nuclear weapons was under active consideration; US Air Force bombers flew nuclear rehearsal runs over Pyongyang; and US commander General Douglas MacArthur planned to drop 30 to 50 atomic bombs across the northern neck of the Korean peninsula to block Chinese intervention. [7]

• In the late 1960s, nuclear-armed US warplanes were maintained on 15-minute alert to strike North Korea. [8]

• In 1975, US defense secretary James Schlesinger acknowledged for the first time that US nuclear weapons were deployed in South Korea. Addressing the North Koreans, he warned, “I do not think it would be wise to test (US) reactions.” [9]

• In February 1993, Lee Butler, head of the US Strategic Command, announced the United States was retargeting hydrogen bombs aimed at the old USSR on North Korea (and other targets.) One month later, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. [10]

• On July 22, 1993, US president Bill Clinton said if North Korea developed and used nuclear weapons “we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate. It would mean the end of their country as we know it.” [11]

• In 1995, Colin Powell, who had served as chairman of the US joints chiefs of staff and would later serve as US secretary of state, warned the North Koreans that the United States had the means to turn their country into “a charcoal briquette.” [12]

• Following North Korea’s first nuclear test on October 9, 2006, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice reminded North Korea that “the United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range—and I underscore full range of its deterrent and security commitments to Japan.” [13]

• In April 2010, US defense secretary Leon Panetta refused to rule out a US nuclear attack on North Korea, saying, “all options are on the table.” [14]

• On February 13, 2013, Panetta described North Korea as “a threat to the United States, to regional stability, and to global security.” He added: “Make no mistake. The US military will take all necessary steps to meet our security commitments to the Republic of Korea and to our regional allies.” [15]

As the North Koreans put it, “no nation in the world has been exposed to the nuclear threat so directly and for so long as the Koreans.”[16]

In pursuing its foreign policy goals, Washington threatened other countries with nuclear attack on 25 separate occasions between 1970 and 2010, and 14 occasions between 1990 and 2010. On six of these occasions, the United States threatened the DPRK. [17] There have been more US threats against North Korea since. (The United States’ record of issuing threats of nuclear attack against other countries over this period is: Iraq, 7; China, 4; the USSR, 4; Libya, 2; Iran, 1; Syria, 1. Significantly, all these countries, like the DPRK, were under communist or economically nationalist governance when the threats were made.)

Since the United States is one of the most aggressive countries in history, not out of place in a category that contains Nazi Germany and militarist Japan, we should hardly passively accept its status as the world’s #1 possessor of WMD. As for North Korea, whose only military aggression (if it can be called that) has occurred as part of a just and legitimate civil war to achieve real independence by liberating the south from the rule of the United States and the Japanese collaborators it recruited to staff its puppet state, it seems to me that lamenting Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal while accepting Washington’s is completely backward. It’s like deploring the symptoms while accepting the virus.

In as much as Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal helps the DPRK stop the juggernaut of US imperialism, those who deplore imperialist predation ought to welcome North Korea’s own observation that the “army and people of the DPRK are no longer what they used to be in the past when they had to counter the U.S. nukes with rifles.” [18]

On top of war games, South Korea has elevated its provocations by resuming, after an 11 year hiatus, propaganda broadcasts, broadcast into North Korea by giant speakers placed at the border, ostensibly in retaliation for the mine incident. The South Korean military has pressed into service “newly developed digital mobile speakers” that “have a range of over 20 kilometers, or double that of the old model.” [19] The DPRK threatened to attack the loudspeakers, eliciting an Orwellian demand from South Korean president Park Geun-hye for Pyongyang to stop “military provocations on the border.” [20]

Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the White House approved a detailed plan, called ‘the playbook,’ to ratchet up tension with North Korea. The playbook was developed by the Pentagon’s Pacific Command, and was discussed at several high-level White House meetings. The plan called for low-altitude B-52 bomber flights over the Korean peninsula. Two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers dropped dummy payloads on a South Korean missile range. The flights were deliberately carried out one spring day in 2013 in broad daylight at low altitude. “We could fly it at night, but the point was for them to see it,” said a US military official. A few days later, the Pentagon deployed two advanced F-22 warplanes to South Korea, also part of the ‘play-book’ plan to intimidate Pyongyang. [21]

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House knew that the North Koreans would react by threatening to retaliate against the United States and South Korea. US “Defense officials acknowledged that North Korean military officers (were) particularly agitated by bomber flights because of memories of the destruction wrought from the air during the Korean War.” [22] US warplanes had demolished every target over one story. They also dropped more napalm in Korea than they did later in Vietnam. [23] The death toll reached into the millions.

The reality, then as now, is exactly opposite of the narrative formulated in Washington and reliably propagated by the Western mass media. Washington and Seoul haven’t responded to North Korean belligerence and provocations; they’ve deliberately planned a show of force in order to elicit an angry North Korean reaction, which is then labelled “belligerent” and “provocative.” The provocations, coldly and calculatingly planned, have come from Washington and South Korea. North Korea’s reactions have been defensive and necessary.

As for the DMZ mine incident, it seems likely that it was accident and Washington and Seoul have decided to turn it into an opportunity to further demonize North Korea, to use it as a pretext to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang by resuming propaganda broadcasts across the border, and to divert attention from the true provocations on the peninsula—their regular and robust anti-DPRK war games.

1) Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea accuses the north after land mines maim two soldiers in DMZ”, The New York times, August 10, 2015.
2) US-S. Korean Ulji Freedom Guardian joint military drills under fire,” Rodong Sinmun, August 14, 2015.
3) Mark McDonald, “North Korea suggests Libya should have kept nuclear program”, The New York Times, March 24, 2011.
4) Ethan Bronner, “Israel sense bluffing in Iran’s threats of retaliation”, The New York Times, January 26, 2012.
5) Charles J. Hanley and Randy Hershaft, “U.S. often weighed N. Korea nuke option”, The Associated Press, October 11, 2010.
6) Hanley and Hershaft.
7) Hanley and Hershaft.
8) Hanley and Hershaft.
9) Hanley and Hershaft.
10) Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History, W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. p. 488-489.
11) William E. Berry Jr., “North Korea’s nuclear program: The Clinton administration’s response,” INSS Occasional Paper 3, March 1995.
12) Bruce Cumings, “Latest North Korean provocations stem from missed US opportunities for demilitarization,” Democracy Now!, May 29, 2009.
13) Lou Dobbs Tonight, October 18, 2006.
14) Hanley and Hershaft.
15) Choe Sang-hun, “New leader in South criticizes North Korea,” The New York Times, February 13, 2013.
16) “Foreign ministry issues memorandum on N-issue,” Korean Central News Agency, April 21, 2010.
17) Samuel Black, “The changing political utility of nuclear weapons: Nuclear threats from 1970 to 2010,” The Stimson Center, August 2010, http://www.stimson.org/images/uploads/research-pdfs/Nuclear_Final.pdf
18) Rodong Sinmum, August 17, 2015.
19) “More leaflet launches by conservative groups during inter-Korean impasse,” The Hankyoreh, August 14, 2015.
20) Choe Sang-hun, “South Korean leader marks anniversary of war’s end with warning to north Korea,” The New York Times, August 15, 2015.
21) Jay Solomon, Julian E. Barnes and Alastair Gale, “North Korea warned”, The Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2013.
22) Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. pledges further show of force in Korea”, The Wall Street journal, March 29, 2013
23) Bruce Cumings. The Korean War: A History. Modern Library. 2010.

~ Stephen Gowans is a leading Canadian peace and social justice activist and founding editor of What’s Left.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Take U.S. Bases Back to America



In fact the overwhelming majority of people on Okinawa (including all of the elected officials there) oppose US bases. 

We all need to be asking why are there more than 800 US military bases around the world?  Whose interests are they 'protecting'?  What is the environmental and cultural consequences of these bases?

The Battle for UK's Labour Party


Jeremy Corbyn was rank outsider in the Labour leadership contest but in the last few weeks Corybnmania has swept across the country and pushed him into poll position.

The corporate elites inside Labour are attempting to rig the election against Jeremy Corbyn by “purging” genuine supporters on spurious grounds, one of the party’s former MPs has suggested. See more on this story here

Just goes to show that the corporate water carriers don't really believe in democracy.  When a guy like Corbyn tries to return his party to its roots and draws back disaffected voters the fat cats try to sabotage the electoral process.  Mr. Big and his minions don't like a fair fight. 

It's the same story in every country these days.  The corporate masters want control of the whole damn planet!  Well to hell with them!

More Than Meets the Eye in Korea


There are lots of people coming and going each day in Gangjeong village.  The numbers change quickly.  Not only are there people blocking the Navy base construction gate but there is always a Catholic mass being held just across the street in the make shift church.  Yesterday a big bus pulled up soon after we arrived and two-thirds of the passengers stepped across the street to join the mass and the rest came to help block the gate. (The Catholic Church here is unlike any I've seen before.  Many give Fr. Mun and Jeju Bishop Kang most of the credit for the daily presence of priests and nuns in the village.)

While we sit in front of the gate the Navy has 2-3 of their agents filming everything we do.  Not to be out done the activists have five regular camera people filming every thing the police do during the 90 minutes we are blocking the gate.

After the gate blocking and Catholic mass are over we head down to the 'restaurant' where activists are fed by one of the village men who folks call 'Uncle'.  He is a dog lover and is always seen with a cute little fuzzy haired friend in tow.  During these hot days he's been serving cool watermelon, which is much appreciated.

During lunch yesterday I sat across from a professor from Seoul who teaches criminal law to police.  He had come to Jeju to testify in a court case - must have been one of the many that are now underway in Jeju courts against activists for their 'disruption of business and/or government affairs'.  The professor was lamenting South Korea's lack of democracy and said he tries to teach his students that the job of police is to be fair and to defend the rights of the public.  He fears the current right-wing Park administration (President Park is the daughter of former brutal dictator who collaborated with the imperial Japanese occupation of Korea) and worries that war could break out at any time with North Korea.

I heard that North and South Korea were exchanging shells in recent days but the western media is not likely reporting that the Pentagon and their puppet Park regime are currently running war games bumping up against the border with North Korea.  North Korea must always wonder - is this one for real?  Are they going to invade us now?

There can be no doubt that the US wants regime change in Pyongyang.  It would be a real prize for Washington's endless war plan.  North Korea borders China and Russia and if toppled would give the US an even more strategic base in its current encirclement of those two nations.

During the Korean War Gen. Douglas MacArthur had the Air Force cross the border into the former Soviet Union and bomb nearby Vladivostok trying to draw Moscow into the war.  The Russians didn't take the bait.  It reminds me of the current US-NATO war plan to pull Russia directly into the civil war being waged in Ukraine.  Despite all the western media claims that Russia has invaded Ukraine they actually have been quite restrained considering that the Kiev puppet regime has not only shelled the Russian speaking citizens in eastern Ukraine but has also occasionally shelled across the border into Russia trying to draw a response.

The people in Korea have been living with war, or the daily threat of war, for a very long time.  Sadly the American people know virtually nothing about Korea or don't really much care.  Even the peace movement knows little about Korea (historically or the present).  My hope is that the current focus on Jeju Island will help draw some peaceniks interest and maybe, just maybe, even the American people might eventually open their eyes and see what our war mongering nation has wrought here. 

The Conditions for Rebellion are Growing



In this episode of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges sits down with founder of the People’s Organization for Progress Larry Hamm to dissect periods of American resistance, and explain how shifts in political climate have and will shape new modes of community organizing.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Today at the Navy Base Gate

Tip the Balance Toward the Good

After our tea MiYoung gets us to try some meditation
At the coffee shop in Gangjeong village after a long day of fun
The water temperature was perfect.  Our host MiYoung (center) has her sea diving mask on.  You can tell which of the people are the white guys from Maine.
Jungmun beach on Jeju Island  


Peace activism is not all work.  Now and then we get to have some fun. Two days ago fellow Mainer Marlon Brando and I were taken to Jungman beach for a delightful swim.  Our host was local Jeju Island native MiYoung whose mother was once a sea diving woman and in later life created a shelter for battered women.  MiYoung is a fervent supporter of the Gangjeong village fight against the Navy base.  One activist told me that often when the villagers feel really depressed it is usually MiYoung that rolls in and stirs people back to life.  I can believe it. 

Our day with MiYoung lasted about ten hours and was full of joy and laughter the entire time.  When we were swimming in the ocean, with her sea diving mask on, MiYoung was laughing as each wave battered us.

Today after the vigil at the gate from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm I walked down to the port to get a better view of the Navy base construction.  Along the way I passed a massive development of five or six supersized apartment buildings being constructed, in what once was a tangerine grove, and learned that they will be the housing for military families assigned to the base.  The barracks for single Navy personnel have been built on what used to be Gurombi rock - the sacred village coastline.

In spite of all that is being done here the mostly young group of Korean activists remain steady in their work to counter this soul draining militarism with their own determined effort to build up the good.  Many of the young folks, in order to be able to remain here, need work and have thus created their own jobs.  Tonight Brando and I went to a beautiful Italian restaurant on the edge of the village run by local activists (I recognized two of them who were in Regis Tremblay's film The Ghosts of Jeju).  I have been craving pasta for weeks and was not disappointed by the meal.  Brando had pasta with octopus but I went for a more traditional carbonara sauce.  First class and the sourdough bread top notch.

Another creative restaurant run by activist has tables in the middle of the river that flows into the ocean.  You sit on the table and waiters wade out and take your order.  We plan to eat there next week.

Another activist has found some available land and planted rice (rice is not grown here, tangerines are the big crop on Jeju Island).  Another woman activist has created a beautiful bookstore/tea house. The Catholic Center that I am staying in officially opens in early September with an international Jesuit peace conference.  Priests and nuns from around South Korea are constantly flowing in and out of the village to join the protests and will use this place as their center.

Many of these activists are noted play writes, film critics, artists, spiritual leaders and more.  They've brought their art forms into this remarkable movement in Gangjeong village that has run up against the US imperial war machine.  While at first look it might appear that people are loosing this struggle to the makers of endless war one needs to dig deeper into the core of the community to see the deep impact they are making here. 

Once the base opens bars and prostitution will come here as always happens in a military town.  But the early seeds have been planted of another kind of view of the world.  It's a cultural battle between the forces of evil and those seeking to promote life, love, joy, and peace.  Each of us that comes here helps tip the balance toward the side of the good.  Time will tell what will be the ultimate outcome.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sewing & Dancing in Resistance on Jeju

Wildflower sits during the daily protest at the Navy base gate on Jeju Island.  She sews to help relieve the stress and at the end of the vigil leads the group in three joyful dances.  Below is an interview with her that was printed in the July 2015 edition of the Des Moines, Iowa Catholic Worker newsletter


A South Korean Peace Activist’s Perspective

By Jessica Reznicek

Wildflower is a longtime committed artist and activist I met while visiting the Gangjeong Village of Jeju Island, South Korea. She is from the mainland of South Korea, but has left her home and relocated to Gangjeong, where she lives in a container house and works as a full time peacemaker in opposition to the U.S. naval base currently being constructed in the small village.

Wildflower’s art has become a symbol of both the grief and joy shared by local villagers and peace activists here in Gangjeong. Through craft and dance she expresses both feelings of loss of the sacred Gureombi Rock which was destroyed during the construction of the naval base and joy generated from the close-knit peace community which resides here. Her art celebrates friendship and solidarity in the face of the ongoing struggle to demilitarize Jeju Island.

She quickly befriended me and Frank Cordaro, volunteering to give us daily lessons in Korean. She taught us how to say crucially important phrases in Korean such as “good morning,” “thank you very much,” “peace be with you,” and “hey Gureombi Rock, I love you.”

Wildflower has become my close and loving friend in the short time I have been in Gangjeong, and has generously agreed to an interview so that all of you folks back home have the opportunity to hear a strong voice in this courageous struggle.  

On a final note, I would like to give a big shout-out to another dear friend I have made here in Gangjeong. Without Jungjoo’s fantastic interpreting skills this interview would have never been possible. Thanks Jungjoo!

You are from the mainland of South Korea, correct?  What inspired you to leave your home and join the struggle against the construction of the U.S. naval base being built in Gangjeong?

Yes, I am from the mainland of South Korea. Father Mun texted me that he was going to Gangjeong, and asked if I would come along. I came here on a three-day trip, but when I was here I saw Gureombi Rock for the first time and I saw that it was so beautiful. I felt that if it was covered by this base I could not bear it. I then set up a tent and started to live there.

This was before the construction of the base had officially begun. My tent was set up on a path leading to Gureombi Rock, the purpose being to block progress. I lived in that tent on Gureombi Rock for two months, until a police crackdown took place and the tent where I lived was thrown away by the police. I was then sent to a detention center. I wrote a message on the tent that said this is personal property and if somebody were to take it I would sue. When I was released from the detention center, a person who had found my tent tangled in a fence returned it to me. I resumed my life living in the tent,but eventually I couldn’t make it any longer. I got sick for a while and couldn’t live in a tent for a while, and other things happened that brought me to live in this container.

So, to answer your question, it is simply to say that I am here because of Gureombi Rock.

How long have you been working as a peace activist? How long in Gangjeong?

I have been here in Gangjeong for five years, but have been working as a peace activist all over South Korea for about 12 years total. The former issues I have worked on are about the expansion of a U.S. military base located in Pyeontaek City. Also, I have been a part of other movements and have stood in solidarity with other groups of people who are oppressed by the government. I stood in solidarity with the workers who were laid off by Ssangyong Motor Company. I also stood with the people of the Yongsan District in Seoul—their place was uprooted by the State. I would say that I have been actively working against militarism and capitalism for 12 years.

How do you perceive U.S. involvement in South Korea?

I don’t think my country is an independent country. Stating it simply, we were colonized by Japan, and now we have been colonized by the U.S. The April 3rd massacre and also the uprising of May 18th in Gwangju, they were all done by the U.S. And of course, now everything happening here in Gangjeong the U.S. is responsible for as well. In South Korea there are more than 90 U.S. Army bases and if you include facilities there are many, many more.

How does the construction of this U.S. naval base serve to impact the way of life here on Jeju Island?

Definitely I think that the completion of this project is not the end, there should be something more coming up. As if the base were a cell of cancer, it is contagious and spreads out. More and more houses will be removed, the native people will become displaced, and the community will be replaced with bars and prostitution. In the same way we have seen this happen in the past with the building of other U.S. bases in South Korea. Also, in another nearby city an airfield airbase will be built. A lot of people ask us, “So the construction is almost done, what are you guys still doing here?” Although we know we already have cancer we do not stop trying to cure it. Likewise, we know there is more to do. I want to do the most that I can do.

Not just in the form of changing physical structures does the building of the base threaten Gangjeong, but in the form of energy as well. Just as a physical fence encompasses the base, so too does an invisible
fence of negative, evil energy. This negative energy can spread also, and it poses a threat to the purity and beauty alive in this village today. Our job is also to counteract this bad energy with positive energy.

A lot of people nowadays are afraid of coming to visit Gangjeong Village. Gangjeong is quite well known for its struggle, but in spite of this fact still people are coming to visit. It will never stop. The visitors feel sorry for us and feel helpless that they cannot join us in the struggle, and I tell them that I am doing these things and I will continue fighting. I want other people to know Gangjeong is not a dangerous or scary place. What I want them to know is that there are so many wonderful people and I want to tell their stories through the making of my dolls. So when people come here I hope that they feel comforted by seeing the beautiful murals and my craft room. At first people get uncomfortable because of the tension in the community, but I try to ease people through art, painting flowers and sewing dolls.

I have only been in Gangjeong for a few weeks, but I see you every single day for Mass at the naval base gate. What drives you to keep showing up every single day?  Where does your endurance and dedication to this struggle come from?

In the past, before the construction was happening, I stayed at the gate for 24 hours a day. All day long. At that time there were two groups, two shifts, daytime and nighttime, but I stayed through the entire time. So that shows how much I was eager to stop the construction, but I have been arrested nine times, and in the course of the struggle the presidential administration changed. A new president was elected and activists were told we had better be careful. Before we were being released fairly quickly, but now they have begun sentencing us. Nowadays, I would say that the only place where direct action or struggle is happening is during Mass at the gate. This is why I go, although I am not a Catholic. I go because this is where the resistance is happening.

As you watch the construction of the base become more and more developed each day, how do you overcome discouragement?

I try not to watch it. At some point the fence grew all the way down to the water, the fences were put up. Also, we lost Gureombi and I cannot watch the development of this base take that direction. Actually it is not easy at all. Every day I watch the buildings going higher and I feel very discouraged. It is very hard. 

My colleague Sung-Hee told me one day that the military housing department for military personnel was completely built. And then she turned toward the base and said “You guys continue building, and when
you are all finished we will use those buildings for our University of Peace.” Around that time we were disappointed by the newly elected president, and Brother Sung, another colleague of mine, said our next mission is to make Jeju Island a demilitarized island. I realized that I had gotten so discouraged by seeing such a small thing, but my colleagues had a long view of the future and that helped me to get over it.

In a practical way, in a daily setting, another way for me to overcome discouragement is by sewing. If I concentrate on sewing I don’t happen to see the police. The action of sewing itself is similar to meditation. It kind of calms me down, especially in dealing with anger. It continuously helps me in the process of healing my wounds and healing the wounds of others. Also, in the end I can have the artwork in my hands. My sewing comes in the form of artwork. And then I sell them to make money to support
our struggle. 

One more thing that helps me is dancing. I have a story about dancing. One time an art therapist visited the village and she followed me so as to understand the daily schedule so that she could start the process. At the end of the day we used to have a candlelight vigil and we would dance. She saw this and said to us that we were already engaged in the healing process. In Gangjeong, sometimes we still want to cry more than we want to laugh, but nonetheless, after we dance I always feel lightened.

Having committed your entire life to stopping this base from being built, in your opinion why are there some people in South Korea who are pro-base?

A lot of people say it is for the sake of national security and that we don’t know when North Korea will attack. All of the bases in Korea, actually, they are supposed to be used to protect South Korea, so it is all tied in with the division of Korea. Even the education system has been influenced a lot by this ideology, so that many people are educated against North Korea. The U.S. government has backed all of the bases that exist in Korea. The aim is to solidify them, make them strong, so that they do not close.

Also, one thing kind of dominant in Korean society is the mentality that people think if you remove the top of a mountain to build something, that this is development, and that development is always good.

During your participation in peace work here in Gangjeong, what role have police officers played in the peace movement?

Without the police the naval base cannot be built. It is impossible to count how many times they use violence. One example, they were wearing gloves but on the gloves there was something, sort of like small spikes, that easily scratched our skin. Especially when we were sitting holding each other’s arms, when they drug us apart, they would deeply cut our skin. Often then it would rain and become so painful. Even I myself experienced violence to the point that I couldn’t move my arm for months. I was hurt so badly that I thought I would never dance again. Every day I gave myself acupuncture treatments, so today I think it is a miracle that I can dance. We demanded that the police change their gloves, and to please
use some made of cotton.

Sometimes it feels as though activists and police officers come from completely different worlds, as well as pro-base and anti-base people. Do you think it is possible that something could help us to bridge this gap between one another so that we could all begin working toward peace together? If so, what would that be?

Before, for a while, almost every morning between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. the siren was ringing in the village. Immediately we would go out and go to the gate and stay there all day long. It was very cold, freezing, so once we got there we began to dance the Gangjeong dance. One day, it was so freezing that we danced the same dance three times in a row. I have heard from the people of Gangjeong who are involved in the struggle that I am more determined than the Navy. One day I biked to the gate, and when I arrived someone was just about to turn on the CD player. When the music was turned on I saw a police officer start to dance. So we happened to see each other, the police officer was dancing in the dark, and how embarrassed he was when he saw me watching him. And then he looked at my eyes and asked me directly if I was a professional dancer. The police even gave me a tip about creating a new kind of dance, in a style that is becoming very popular right now. This was very impressive to me.

I also have a story about the police and one of our dogs. Her name was Peace. When the dog was a little, little puppy it was so cute and I intentionally took the dog with me to the gate in the morning because everybody loved her so much and wanted to play with her and pet her and one day a police officer wanted to greet the puppy.                                   
     
Of course I treat police officers as equal human beings, and I know that they are ordered to do what they do. The longer I stay here the more I realize that the police, they consider themselves professionals, and they do what they do because that is what they want to do. They want to feel comfortable with what they are doing by not disobeying.

Myself, I suffer a lot because of what the police did to me. They tell lies easily, and because of their lies I went to court. I should have done community service instead of going to prison. So I don’t trust the police, the group itself. But still I try to invite them to our actions.  Every day before we start dancing, I say on the microphone, “Police, please join us!” 

The Human Chain at the Navy Base

American Sheep To Be Shorn

Gullible Americans Forever

By Paul Craig Roberts

August 18, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - “Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.” — Mark Twain

Listening to NPR news today I was reminded how throughly this once independent voice has sold out.

I was also reminded of the Mark Twain quote above. NPR reported that Syrians were lined up in Turkey waiting on passage on inflatable rafts to Greece. According to the NPR report, there are 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and 250,000 Syrians have been killed. NPR said nothing about the cause of this murder and displacement of vast numbers of people. It was if the plight of these people materialized out of thin air. The fact that Washington sicced ISIS, al Qaeda, Turkey, the US and NATO Air Forces, and Washington’s Middle Eastern vassals on Syria was not mentioned. The view on NPR is the same as Washington’s — that if only Assad would resign and hand Syria over to Washington, everything would be fine.

Americans don’t go to bed every night unable to sleep from shame from the atrocities that the US government has inflicted on Syria. And on Iraq. And Libya. And Afghanistan. And Pakistan. And Yemen. And Somalia. And Ukraine. And Serbia. According to the prostitute media, all of these human catastrophes are the work of dark forces that America must combat. It is all a clever orchestration of public emotion in favor of the military/security complex’s bank balance.

The corruption of public discourse in America, indeed throughout the West, is total. There are no reliable reports, not from public or private institutions. The economic reports are propaganda to keep alive the image of a successful America. The reports about Russia, Ukraine, and Muslims are propaganda designed to inculcate fear in the gullible, fear that ensures more power and profit for Washington and the military/security complex.

Americans have proven themselves to be the easiest sheep ever to be shorn.

The gullibility of Americans threatens the world with armageddon.

~ Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.   

My Take:   The campaign of Donald Trump is a side show, a circus act, meant to further turn national elections into entertainment - a spectacle that in itself reveals how little 'democracy' we actually have these days.  The whole election process is now a joke - controlled by the corporate oligarchies and the puppet media which they own.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The God of War or Spirit of Life?



Contrast the two images.

Worship of technology
and the worship
of life
nature
spirit

Machines
big trucks
heavy equipment
cover the earth
in cement
bury ourselves
we are dead
in spirit
as we prepare
for war

High tech
on Earth
and in space
full spectrum
ignorance

Boy toys
war games
practice killing
build a shrine
to war
a Navy base
float the war
out onto the sea
kill the dolphins
and whales
with sonar
an altar
of madness
and death

The dance of life
joy
love
clapping
stomping
moving
in harmony
with
the ebb
and flow
of nature

Smile
or
frown
which is
in your town? 

Get Off Our Rez!!!



In this video, protesting members of the Navajo Nation literally chase Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) off of their reservation. McCain was running from their frustrated questions, demanding answers for the Senator’s decision to trade away land containing a Navajo sacred site to a foreign mining company. In addition, they are enraged by the slow response to the recent Gold King Mine spill, which has contaminated local drinking water with arsenic, lead, and mercury.

After declining to address the issues, McCain flees to his SUV while being pursued by chanting and drumming Navajo protesters. It’s a humbling moment for an outspoken man whose Native American constituents have called for him to be removed from the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs. “This man has no regard for human life. In his state alone the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute continues, tribes are losing their water rights, and over half the Navajo Nation now lives off the reservation” reads the letter. It is far past time Arizona elected itself a government that will fight for the rights of minorities.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Watching the Tides Roll Away At Jeju Navy Base Gate



I was awake earlier than I wanted to be this morning.  I made myself breakfast in the 4th floor kitchen here at the Catholic Center in Gangjeong village.  Since I arrived after dark last night I don't know my way around that well yet so I went walking and exploring for awhile.  The tangerines that Jeju is famous for are now young and will be harvested in the late fall.  The trees are all around the village as are the plants with hot red peppers and the green bean plants.

Knowing that we had to be at the Navy base gate by 11:00 am for the daily Catholic mass I wanted to make a sign for my time here expressing not only my feelings but also the deep feelings of the voices that I heard while in Seoul.  So I went by the peace center and the artist Wildflower set me up with all the materials to produce my sign.  She even helped me color in the letters so I could get it done in time for the protest.

All day cement trucks come and go from the base along with other construction vehicles and workers.  Our group sat on chairs and blocked the entrance and then about every 15-20 minutes the police announced on a loud speaker that we had to move because by now trucks had formed a long line to come and go from the base gate.  Then the police came and four men or woman cops grabbed the chairs with people in them and carried us to the side.  They let the trucks pass through and then we (priests, nuns, activists) moved our chairs back in front of the gate and the dance started all over again.

This ain't stopping the base but these kinds of daily obstruction tactics has set the timeline of base completion back considerably and cost the government large sums of extra money.  Legions of police over these years have been rotated in and out of Jeju to deal with the protests.  In the meantime all of these police have had to listen to the speeches, the prayers, the appeals for justice and peace, and I know that some have had their hearts changed during the process.  When 16 of us were arrested here in 2012 for crawling under the razor wire to get onto sacred Gureombi rock the squad leader that drove some of us to the Jeju City jail told us as much.  He said his entire squad agreed with the village protest.

It's hard to keep a movement going at a hyper pace over this many years so like the ocean on the other side of the Navy base gates the Save Jeju Now movement has ebbed and flowed.  It's the law of nature in motion - movements come and go - they go up and down.  The key to successful organizing is being able to maintain some level of activity in the lean times so that when the tide comes flowing back in again there is organization ready to lead the surging people.

The anti-base examples we find on Jeju Island and in Okinawa - both so connected to the oceans - are truly models for all of us.  Tonight fellow Mainer Brando and I were sitting outside sipping a beer and sharing cookies.  We both agreed how lucky we are to be here and how important it is for other activists around the world to visit these models of sustained organizing on Jeju Island and in Okinawa.  I wish I could get every peacenik I know to come here and see for themselves.

Extra Stuff:  While in Seoul I did an interview with an Internet based progressive media outlet called  Voice of the People.  You might not read Korean but they have some good photos of me at the August 15 rally.  See it here

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Paid for by U.S. & NATO



The ugly results of the US-NATO war project inside Ukraine..... particularly watch the 14 minute mark

Arrived on Jeju



Juyeon Rhee and I arrived in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island this evening.  We were met at the airport by GN board member Sung-Hee Choi and her partner Koh Gilchun.  We boarded a bus for the hour long ride from the airport to the village.  (Juyeon who lives in New York City has been my translator and guide during my time in Korea so far.  She is great fun to be with and a dear soul. We are both part of the US Solidarity Committee for Democracy & Peace in Korea.)

Once we arrived in the village Sung-Hee took us to the now famous (if you've see The Ghosts of Jeju) food kitchen where activists are fed any time of the day.  Various varieties of kimchee and rice were available.  I've seen so many videos and photos of this kitchen but had never been inside it.

I am staying at a brand new four-story Catholic center that was built by donations from Catholics across South Korea.  Renowned activist Fr. Mun and Jeju Bishop Kang raised the funds to build this permanent center where priests from across the nation can come and stay when they arrive in the village to join the on-going protests at the base.

Earlier today our wonderful hosts at the Korean Alliance for Progressive Movement in Seoul took the 25 person international group (mostly from Japan) out to a national park on one of the many mountains encircling the city.  We walked a bit on the trails and saw fish in the crystal clear mountain streams.  We had another great lunch before all saying our good-byes to each other.

During a morning evaluation I was asked for my critical comments about these recent days of non-stop activity in Seoul.  I joked that we didn't get enough food which of course is far from the truth.  We ate like kings over and over again and it is a good thing we spent alot of time marching in the sweaty hot sun otherwise I would have gained 25 pounds.

I will be here in Gangjeong until heading home on August 27.  Fellow Mainer Regis Tremblay left Jeju this morning on his way to the Marshall Islands as he works on his next film.  Another Mainer (Code named Brando) is here as well as is my old Florida friend Yosi McIntire (the son of former Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice leader Peg McIntire).  Yosi leaves tomorrow but he had been in Kyoto with us so we had time to see one another then as well.

I am certain that it will be an exciting and sad experience being here as the Navy base construction nears completion - the first phase of it anyway.  There are plans to expand the base even more necessitating the need for more village land to build housing for the Navy and Marine personnel and their families that will ultimately be assigned here.  So the fight to save Gangjeong village goes on.

Sunday Song