“Peace Island”?: Resisting the Militarization of Jeju

A Talk Featuring Wooksik Cheong of Peace Network, Korea

Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 6 p.m.

Humanities 1, Room 210

Today, Jeju Island is best known for “its booming tourism, its hardy diving women, and its lush orange groves” (John Merrill).  Touted as a romantic honeymoon destination and lucrative site for foreign investment, Jeju is, however, far from a paradise.  Prior to June 25, 1950, the purported start of the Korean War, Jeju, deemed a “Red” island, was a site of counter-revolutionary violence—indiscriminate state-sponsored bloodshed justified in the name of “national defense.”  In long overdue recognition of the civilian massacres it perpetrated under US watch in 1948, the South Korean government in 2005 designated Jeju an “Island of Peace.”

Yet, the legacy of unrestrained militarism and the abuse of government authority are far from over.  Since 2007, the people of Gangjeong village have waged non-violent resistance against the construction of a massive naval base on Jeju.  Due to be operational by 2014, the naval base, which will host 20 warships and two Aegis destroyers integrated within the US Missile Defense System, not only stands to destroy a UNESCO biosphere reserve and government-recognized “absolute preservation area” characterized by rare rock formations, abundant and fertile farmlands, pristine fresh and sea waters, and endangered animal species, but also, to displace Gangjeong villagers from their sea- and land-based livelihoods.  Not merely a local struggle, the democratic resistance of Gangjeong residents and activists against the naval base raises the question of a neo-Cold War US/South Korea/Japan alliance and a looming regional arms race with China.  With growing global attention to the Jeju resistance, the South Korean government has intensified its crackdown, recently dispatching more than 1,000 riot police from the mainland to forcibly remove and arrest protesters to clear the way for construction.  

Wooksik Cheong, a founding member and representative of Peace Network, a South Korean NGO formed in 1999 that works for peace and disarmament in Northeast Asia and on the Korean peninsula, will speak on the resistance movement against the militarization of Jeju.

Free and open to the public.  Event co-sponsored by the Department of American Studies, the Asian Pacific Islander Resource Center, the East Asian Studies Program, Cowell College, Oakes College, and the Resource Center for Nonviolence.   For further information, please contact Christine Hong.