We spent the day getting a tour of the perimeter of the US's Army base called Camp Humphreys and the Osan Air Force Base - both in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Both bases have been undergoing a dramatic expansion in recent years which is largely (about 90%) being paid for by the South Korean people.
As part of the Obama/Hillary Clinton 'pivot' of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific more airfields, more barracks and more ports-of call for Navy warships are needed. Thus at Camp Humphreys and Osan AFB (about 23 kilometers apart) they are building new airfields, barracks, munitions storage areas, training grounds, administration buildings and more. Once completed about 45,000 US troops will be stationed at the Army base. Essentially a massive city is being developed to handle this huge US military operation.
In order to satisfy the Pentagon's ravenous appetite for more land around these two bases several farming villages had to be destroyed. The lands were stolen from the peasant farmers who grew rice and who had years ago turned these wet lands into productive fields.
When we arrived yesterday we were taken to the Pyeongtaek Peace Center which was built by the residents of one of those destroyed villages who acquired new land and built a community where each house today is outfitted with solar panels. Their front and back yards are planted with red peppers, veggies and fruit trees.
First thing this morning we were taken from the peace center, where we spent the night in second floor guest rooms, to a peace museum on the other side of the village. The photo above is a sculpture that sits in the center of the museum representing the former lives of the villagers and their intense multi-year non-violent struggle to save their way of life. In the end they were defeated but we were told that the Pyeongtaek struggle was a milestone in creating a new way of resistance in South Korea where art and non-violent struggle came together to inspire future movements like we have seen more recently on Jeju Island.
Included in this wonderful sculpture are not only a bunch of farm implements, all mounted on a tractor, but also sound systems, microphones (arranged as tears hanging from the piece), flags and banners. Photos hanging on the walls depicted the fierce struggle which at one point saw as many as 10,000 police brought into their village on a single day in order to drive away the villagers and their supporters who had come from around the country to help defend them.
This photo below struck a chord in me as it depicts farmers putting messages and other valuables into a large pot that was buried under the ground to be dug up some day in the future when the US military empire finally collapses and the people may again return to their beloved lands.
US citizens have become cold-hearted about the people around the world that 'our government' kills or steals land from for the Pentagon's 1,000 imperial war bases. But this trip has already reenforced for me the hard truth that US bases come at a huge cost to people who are violently forced to move in order for their puppet governments to hand over ownership to the US. And as we now see in South Korea, the insult is a double one as the people here have to help pay for the building of the bases on the stolen lands.
One of the leaders of this village currently has to drive about an hour to the only land he could afford to purchase to restart his rice growing operation. Many of the villagers could not afford to purchase new fields or were too old to restart their lives. They now essentially live without income.
This blatantly unfair system of US control and domination of South Korea, and other countries facing a similar fate, must end.
The people around the world are not holding their breath though - they know that the American people are largely arrogant and self possessed. They do appreciate deeply those of us working for peace but they wish we'd be bolder in confronting our own corporate oligarchic structures.
Try looking into the eyes of deeply depressed and heart broken farmers who ask why does the US think they have the right to take what ever they want.
We must all play a role in helping to remove the American military boot
firmly placed on the necks of innocent people around the globe.