from jeju

Carolyn reports from Gangjeong Village in Jeju Island, So. Korea

Begin forwarded message:

From: carolyn <>
Date: December 28, 2012 8:14:16 AM EST

The Gates

Police pull back activists’ fingers, breaking them,
sometimes along the joint, just below the fingernail.

Since Park Geun-hye was elected president, 
police repression of the nonviolent protest has ramped up. 
With people dispirited, 
And their bodies scratched, bruised, and broken,
there’s no direct action this week.
Just picketing now, a 19-year-old tells me.
All last night he was in front of one of the gates.

7 a.m.
Cement trucks line up.
Police move into place. 
And security guards move the chairs and other objects blocking the entrance. 
One guard throws a yellow No Jeju Base flag to the ground. 
I wonder if he’ll leave it there to be run over, 
but another guard picks it up 
and leans it against the chairs placed on the side of the road. 

After the vehicles pass, we move the chairs, a barrel stove, and a few placards back in front of the gate, along with a vase of lilies. 

Just three of us are there early this morning as the rain comes down.
We move from one gate to the other and back again 
as cement trucks roll in and out,
each activity logged in a thick activist notebook.

Night falls.
Workers continue to arrive for their shifts.
We are sitting around a barrel stove,
activists’ names painted on top of each wooden stool.
Three candles flicker in the middle of our circle.
We talk about the next day’s plans,
about informants
and Hawaiian history. 
Then someone exclaims, Time to dance! 
And in a new circle in front of the gate,
we dance
as workers in twos and threes pass by.

The Hotel

I have just stepped out of the shower and hear a rapping on the door. 
Just a minute, I call out.
Nae. (Yes)
A pause. Then the rapping resumes.
Just a minute, I call out again.
I’m dressing as quickly as I can.
The knocking happens two more times.
I’m sorry, I say, as I open the door. I’ve made the hotel owner wait.
She hands me a bag full of chocolate treats, bows to me, and walks away.
So that was the urgent task.
Each chocolate wrapper says Love in Jeju.


Tomorrow the ROK General Assembly will discuss and possibly decide on the budget for base construction for next year. People in Jeju and Seoul will engage in a hundred bows, repeated throughout the day until word of a decision comes through. 

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