▲ Oliver Stone tells of his fears for Jeju Island and the region. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
[For coverage of Stone's speech and an in-depth interview, click here.]
US director Oliver Stone spoke out against the Gangjeong naval base on Saturday, Aug. 3, at the finale of the Gangjeong Grand March for Life and Peace, organized by anti-base campaigners. Stone joined long-time opponents of the base at an event to mark the arrival in Jeju City of a six-day march across the island.
Gangjeong, Seogwipo City, was chosen as the site for the proposed South Korean naval base under the presidency of Roh Moo-hyun in 2007. Consent was only achieved after a controversial village vote, presided over by soon-to-be-ousted village head, Yoon Tae-Jun. Campaigners have been active ever since protesting the construction.
Stone spoke at 7:45 p.m. to what organizers say was up to 1000 people in Tapdong Square as two groups of campaigners met in Jeju City after walking around the east and west coasts of Jeju, respectively.
▲ Oliver Stone with Father Mun Kyoohyun (left) and Father Mun Jeonghyun (right), who also spoke at the event on Aug. 3. Photo by Darren Southcott
Stone warned that islanders’ “lifestyles are going to be changed” by the construction of the planned base at Gangjeong, which would bring the threat of war, pollution and crime to Jeju, he said.
Stone is an eight-time Oscar-winning filmmaker whose best known films include Platoon, JFK and Born on the Fourth of July. His most recent project is the Untold History of the United States documentary which critiques unchecked US militarization of the Pacific region.
Stone is on record as saying Korea has a “place in my heart” and has been married for 17 years to Korean Sun-jung Jung, with whom he has a daughter. His interest in Korea seeded after hearing of the “ruthless” Korean civil war and Stone himself experienced conflict while serving in Vietnam.
On a sweltering night with intermittent rain, Stone told marchers that the eyes of the US had “turned again to Asia” and that Jeju would be “on the frontline” of any conflict with China. “Shanghai is only 500 k.m. away,” he said gesturing to the southwest.
In front of hundreds of yellow-t-shirt-wearing activists, he stressed that the US “needed enemies” to extend its military power and was manipulating public opinion and fear of China, which was not posing the threat people were being led to believe.
▲ Oliver Stone before going on stage at Tapdong Square. Photo by Darren Southcott
He finished by pledging to take the cause back to the States and ensure that people realise that the Gangjeong base is a global issue. “We will make documentaries,” he said, continuing, “Your fight is our fight,” to great applause.
Despite the high profile visit of the American, there was a slightly subdued atmosphere around the event. The marchers were clearly tired after a long march from Seogwipo City, but there was also a sense that the chance had been missed to halt the base construction.
Kim Duckjin of the Catholic Human Rights Association said the election victory of Park Geun-hye in the December 2012 election had taken the wind out of the movement’s sails, but felt the electorate had been mislead.
“After the election we were really depressed....We fought Lee Myung-bak but now we must wait another five years. The people of Korea misunderstood [Park Geun-hye’s] intentions,” he said.
▲ The marchers, wearing yellow t-shirts symbolizing the movement, cheer at the event finale. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
Kim felt the movement must now build a legacy of peace for the community at Gangjeong. He was pleased, however, with the turnout and the spirit of the campaigners.
“With this turnout of around 800 people for the march, it really cheered us up. We are happy and now look forward to tomorrow,” he said, referring to the human chain planned at the Gangjeong construction site on the morning of Aug. 4.
Others agreed that the movement had now grown to be a symbol of something more than the base. Reverend Jang Chang Weon, of the Osan Dasom Church, said Gangjeong was now a symbol of world peace, but also felt people had been misled.
“Samsung and American capital will use Jeju [as a colony].” Referring to President Park’s request for the handover of wartime military control to be delayed past 2015, Kim said: “We still don’t have self-determination.”
▲ Father Mun passionately addresses the campaigners. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
Despite the resignation of some, there were still bouts of jubilation among the crowd The most vociferous of all of the speakers was Father Mun Jeong-hyeon, who took to the stage and denounced the president, who he accused of resembling her father, former Korean President Park Chung-hee, in her deeds. In a rousing address he vowed:
“As what is right is right, and as what is wrong is wrong, let'sl gather strength to oppose the naval base.”
More coverage of the march and in-depth coverage of Oliver Stone’s visit will follow next week in The Jeju Weekly.
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