Why I Went to Jeju (Dispatch 6):
Americans believe North Korea is the aggressor. (cont’d)
The deeper I probe, the more unavoidable becomes the conclusion that it is the U.S. that has been the aggressor. Take the issue of satellite launches. In December the North Koreans launched a satellite they insist was for the purpose of assessing the nation’s natural resources and to collect crop estimates. Given the impact of years of UN-imposed sanctions this would seem quite plausible. In fact, various experts support the Korean’s claim, while offering ample evidence to discredit both arguments made to Security Council members by the U.S.: that the satellite was for military purposes and that the launch itself was intended to advance their ballistic missile delivery capabilities. Gregory Elich, author of “Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit”, writes that U.S. hypocrisy is “breathtaking”. 75 satellites have been launched by various countries in the past year. North Koreans report there being a total of 9000 missile/satellite launches ever, four of which were North Korean (DPRK). The U.S. launched five military and three spy satellites last year. The UN has never made a resolution or imposed sanctions against any other country. Not Pakistan, not India, not Israel, all non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—all of whom have nuclear warheads and missiles capable of delivering them. The UN Security Council, as too often is the case, is an arrow in the U.S.’s quiver of “diplomacy” tools through which it punishes “maverick” nations.
The propaganda we are subject to in the U.S. has the general public convinced that North Korea is the aggressor, while it is the U.S. that has made the area one of the most militarized places on earth. It’s beyond ironic that while the greatest military power on earth by a country mile is playing war games, involving 60,000 troops, simulating the nuclear destruction of North Korea, we are asserting that country does not have the right to defend itself.
Here’s a case in point with respect to the news we receive. Just last week, when asked whether or not sending the B2 stealth bombers, capable of carrying nuclear armament, from the U.S. to South Korea could be understood as provocative by North Korea, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said no, they couldn’t!!! And that’s the way it was reported–it went unchallenged and undebated. What’s Joe Public to think?
Much if what we’re hearing and reading would lead us to believe we’re virtually on the brink of yet another war. Yet, Obama would prefer taking us even closer to the abyss than talking???
Wednesday, April 10
On my pre-dawn walk this morning I stopped in to visit those activists who were “on duty” at the “Gate by the Bridge”. As on every other occasion, I was met with smiles and warm greetings. Never mind the language barrier. No one here seems to be short on commitment–and I’m making that observation when the weather is relatively benign. I can imagine the conditions they have faced during the winters (Remember, this struggle is into its 6th year!) It’s a cold wind that blows. There seems to be a healthy distribution of labor. Some activists are more present at the gates, others are artists or organizers or cooks or whatever needs to be done and are not so visible. The people at the gate who are predominantly young and seemingly of indomitable spirit haven’t revealed fatigue or despondence, despair or dissension in my presence. Makes one wonder, is it the depth of commitment or a peculiar Korean trait. Whatever, it’s keeping the campaign going in the face of mounting pressure.
After visiting for a few minutes, since there was no imminent action (Trucks-in-waiting are the cue.) I decided to take the trail along the Gangjeong-chun (stream) down to the ocean. The Olle Trail, one of Jeju’s many attractions is a round-the-island footpath that draws tourists from all of Korea and beyond. The base has interrupted the trail—no doubt less a concern to the militarists than the destruction of the sacred Gureombi rock. Nevertheless, both losses are beyond sad. The path I took was now a dead-end finger off the main trail. I’d been here before having walked it with Father Pat on my orientation tour. It’s a mixed experience because the natural beauty of the land- and sea-scape is now dishonored by the construction-in-progress. Traveling along the river bank through a pine forest I could be oblivious of the 20 foot high perimeter fence a few hundred feet to the west, but, when I emerged on the lava rock shore the base was unavoidable. To the west beyond a barbed wire barrier at the shore-line, the landscape was dotted with thousands of the concrete tetrapods (see photo) which will shore up the planned breakwaters. To the east, was, for the most part, pristine coast. On the point of land where the Gangjeong-chun meets the East China Sea was a familiar silhouette. Oh Chulgun, the Quaker of a 1000 bows a day, was singing to the ocean, to the dawn, to the gods? (see photo) I have since learned that it is part of his daily personal statement and an expression of his anguish. His pain, in a way was spiritually uplifting. It left me mindful of what is at stake here and awed by the resistance of the villagers and activists.
Things are moving too quickly. It’s late afternoon and I’ve just observed the latest iteration of the escalation at the gate. Ominous indeed! The police are now not messing around. Whereas during the preceding several days intervals between deliveries have been an hour or more today they began to arrive about every 1/2 hour. Each confrontation seemed to be a little more intense. This time the police really had arrived in force. My guess is that there were at least 200 and the action took place simultaneously at both gates. After requesting/ordering the “blocking” activists to clear the roadway and getting no response the police physically moved each of those few. Most of the activists had elected to participate only as observers not wanting to risk arrest at this point and sensing that possibility had become totally unpredictable. As has been the case since I arrived there was no physical violence. Plenty of shouting, but no violence. On this occasion and the couple of “deliveries” to follow, the police hauled all of the debris off, another indication of their escalating intent to get the job done. I’m not sure activists will be able to sustain the deliveries of firewood necessary to blocking the entrances.
It has become clear to me that the years of resistance by the villagers and activists has caused very consequential delays. The police must be under pressure to, “Put a halt to this nonsense,” I hear the government saying. The villagers don’t seem to be of a mind to fold their tents. How it will play out in the days ahead will be interesting for sure.
A final note: I have had the great pleasure of meeting Father Mun Jeong Hyeon, one of the several inspirational leaders of the resistance. I hesitate to resort to the overused word, iconic, but it seems he qualifies. Father Mun, who received the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights (along with the $50,000 cash award), is definitely a celebrity hereabouts. He conducts an 11am mass every day. It will shock my friends to hear that I have stood as witness (and in solidarity) thru yesterday’s and today’s services and will do so the rest of my stay. Now that’s a measure of the impact the man and the cause have had.