▲ Left: Bruce K. Gagnon poses with a sculpture on the proposed site for the Jeju navel base. Photo by Choi Byung-soo Right: Gagnon giving a speech in Gangjeong villageto oppose the construction of the navel base due to environmental concerns and fear the base will make the‘ island of peace’a military target in the future. Photo by HanSun Nam
Despite heavy opposition from Jeju residents the proposed Korean naval base is scheduled to begin construction later this year. Jeju Governor Kim Tae-hwan survived a recall vote over his plan to allow the base in early October. The Jeju Elections Commission resolved the vote was invalid after a turnout of only 11 percent of the 33 percent required showed. In lieu of the negative attention surrounding the contradictory notion of missile defense warships docked at Jeju’s proclaimed “Island of Peace,” people from all over are coming out of the wood work to shout about how destructive the base would be not only to the ideal of a peaceful society, but to the precious environment that will inevitably suffer as well.
The southern part of the island, specifically Gangjeong, the proposed location of the base, bears international significance for multiple reasons. Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space and recently, he visited Jeju to determine the severity of the proposed naval base. He says the most noteworthy reason for the base is structured around the fact that Jeju is the crossroad for the Malaka Straight where 80% of China’s oil is transported from the middle east.
“If the United States is able to militarily choke off the straight then the U.S. would be able to hold the keys to China’s economic engine. As the U.S. economy is collapsing the U.S. military strategy has been determined that the way we will control the world is to control the distribution of oil and natural gas…I believe that the base at Jeju is the key for this particular strategy and particularly for choking off the straight and controlling China,” said Gagnon.
Gagnon believes the base to be a “provocative, dangerous base that makes Jeju Island a target. It makes the island of peace, not an island of peace, but an island of power projection for the US empire… Especially a place that sees itself as a tourist destination to have a military base that would clearly be a target for the Chinese.”
While construction of the base has been confirmed, Gagnon says he hopes the people will continue to fight. Multiple protests have occurred around the island with residents shouting and performing dramatic spectacles like shaving their heads and even writing their protests in blood, yet the proposed plan is scheduled to continue. “I travel all over the world and my experience is that every country I go to it’s the same story. The people’s government, increasingly is controlled by corporate interest and is not listening to the people, so there is a broken connection between real democracy and what I call, an oligarchy,” said Gagnon. He says the people know it is a terrible idea and must persist in doing something about it.
Gagnon says beyond that the island has been designated by the United Nations as an environmentally pristine place. Not only would it destroy the rock formations along the beach says Gagnon, but also destroy the coral and aquatic life it surrounds. Gagnon noted that building naval bases brings in submarines and nuclear powered vessels that will create major pollution problems. Gagnon says it is up to the people of the island to persist in their resistance and provide a voice, not just for the people, but for the environment as well; “Who will speak for the fish, who speak for the coral, who will speak for the water if the people don’t do it? Even if it appears the decision is final, don’t give up because there is always going to be a need for someone to speak up for the part of life that does not have a voice.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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