"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Ghosts of Jeju


Jeju Island is known as the "Island of World Peace," a name that does not begin to tell the story of the Island's extensive history of conflict, occupation, repression and genocide. The most horrific episode in this history began in 1948 when the South Korean military and national police hunted down and slaughtered approximately 30,000 people. The U.S., which was the occupying power at the time, was directly responsible what is now known as the April 3 massacre.

Why did the government do such a horrific thing? 1948 was a tumultuous time of establishing two governments in Korea. The people of Jeju Island rose up to protest the long-term division of the nation by boycotting the elections that were occurring in Seoul. For this they were branded as Communists, and the terror began.

For decades following the massacre, public discussion of the April 3 massacre was ruthlessly repressed. Following democratization, the slow and painful process of fact finding and truth telling began, and continues today. In 2003, South Korean President Noh Moo Hyun travelled to Jeju Island and officially apologized.


Now, over 60 years after the April 3 massacre the people of Jeju Island are once again protesting. This time they are protesting the U.S. Missile Defense System and a provocative new naval base being built on their island. Why??? If you look at a map of Jeju
Island, you can see that it lies about 500 kilometers East of the Chinese mainland. This military base is intended to project force towards China and to provide a forward operating installation in the event of a military conflict between the U.S. and China. Ironically, from a military strategic standpoint, this base is totally unnecessary and a tragic waste of money that should be spent on human needs.

For years, South Korean activists have been protesting the plans for the new naval base on Jeju Island. During that time the response by the South Korean police and military has become more heavy-handed and brutal. Col. Anne Wright (former United States Army colonel and retired official of the U.S. State Department) reported at one point that "police broke arms of activists who had locked arms inside PCV pipes, beat up activists and threw them from kayaks."


The ghosts of Jeju cry out for recognition and righting of the wrongs perpetrated long ago.  Yet, the hubris of the National Security State (that was responsible for the original crimes) continues to create yet a new generation of crimes.  The difference is that today's crimes could lead to disaster not only for the people of Jeju Island, but for the entire region and the rest of the world.  The "Island of World Peace" could literally be reduced to a pile of ash and rubble in a major conflict.


Independent filmmaker Regis Tremblay has produced a powerful documentary about the struggle of the people of Jeju Island to stop the military madness that threatens to destroy their island. What is so powerful about this film is how it links the current struggle to the earlier atrocities in a compelling context.  Here is the what the filmmaker has to say:

A shocking documentary about the struggle of the people of Jeju Island, S. Korea. Set in the context of the American presence in Korea after World War II, the film reveals horrible atrocities at the hands of the U.S. Military Government of Korea. 

Using previously secret and classified photos, film and documents, this will be the first English-language documentary about the struggle of the brave people of Gangjeong Village who are opposing the military advance of the United States, just as their parents and relatives did in 1947. As then, they are being arrested, jailed, fined, and hospitalized for resisting the construction of a massive naval base that will accommodate America’s “pivot to Asia,” and will destroy their 400 year old village and their UNESCO protected environment. 

And yet, the indomitable spirit of the villagers and their supporters, who have not lost hope in spite of overwhelming odds, will inspire and motivate everyone who believes there is a better way to live together on this planet.

This is a story that must be told, must be heard... and its lessons applied to stop the madness that threatens the world with destruction.  There are no military solutions to our problems, and the naval base on Jeju Island is ground zero in the struggle to seek a new way.


Learn more about the documentary at the filmmaker's Website, where you can also watch the trailer. You can purchase a copy of the documentary (for just $20) and arrange screenings and subsequent conversations (and hopefully support for Jeju).

You can also learn more and support the struggle at http://savejejunow.org/ or connect via their Facebook page.

If you live around Puget Sound you will be able to see The Ghosts of Jeju and hear from the filmmaker this November.  Here are the current offerings.  Additional screenings will be posted on Puget Sound Nuclear Weapons Free Zone "EVENTS" page as they are confirmed.

Thursday, November 7, 6:00 to 8:00 PM, Seattle University 
Wyckoff Auditorium, Bannan Engineering Building East Entrance 
901 12th Avenue, Seattle
Click here for a campus map.
Sponsored by Seattle University's Asian Studies Program and Korean Student Union
This event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


Friday, November 8, 2013, 7:00 to 9:30 PM at Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies

Keystone Congregational United Church of Christ 5019 Keystone Place N., Seattle
(…Please come at 6:30 and visit with your neighbors!)
And Co-Sponsored by VETERANS FOR PEACE
Light snacks.
Download the Flyer HERE.
For more information on Veterans For Peace, go to: http://www.vfp92.org/
(Event is FREE and open to the public! ...but Donations are kindly accepted).

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