Support Korean farmers
- Friends: I received the following information from an organization in Korea. If you can, please support the struggle of the farmers for their land.......maxWe Condemn the Korean Government¡¯s Police and Military Operations to Violently Evict Civilian Residents in Order to Expand U.S. Armed Forces
Farmers can live without a military, but a military cannot survive without farmers
On May 4, 11,500 officers, 2,800 soldiers, and 600 private contractor workers performed an operation titled ¡®Hwangseool of Dawn¡¯ in Daechu-ri and Dodu-ri, Pyungtaek, Korea. ¡®Hwangseool¡¯ is a field area where the U.S. armed forces in Korea are planning to expand their military bases. The targets of the operation were farmers-most of them are over 60 years old- who wanted to remain and continue their livelihoods in Pyungtaek, and about 1,000 civilians who were supporting the farmers¡¯ efforts. The soldiers entered the area in early morning, fenced in the paddy fields and dry fields with barbed wire, and tied up farmers who tried to resist their operation. Armed with clubs and shields, the police forces and contractor workers indiscriminately cracked down on the civilians who were gathered in Daechu Elementary School, a symbol of peace in the village. In less than ten hours, 500 people were taken into police custody and 200 were injured. Among the injuries suffere! d were broken noses, cracked skulls, and severed fingers; those who did not suffer palpably visible injuries were not even counted among the injuries. It was the first time in 26 years that the Korean military had performed an operation against civilians; the military had not once used force against civilians since the country¡¯s ¡®democratization.¡¯ Those who were in the villages on May 4 have testified that the atmosphere was close to martial law. The police continued to search the village till past sunset looking for those who had participated in demonstrations, and arraigned civilians who were returning home without notice or warrants. Police forces continue to perform surprise searches at the village entry and military soldiers are now constantly guarding the barbed wire fence.
At the beginning of World War II, the Japanese military built a military base in Pyungtaek, a small city about a 90-minute drive away from Seoul. The military facilities, spreading over 245acres, were greatly expanded after the U.S. military government took over control from the Japanese. There is now a 3,708acres U.S. military base in Pyungtaek, occupied by 12,000 U.S. soldiers (1/3 of all U.S. forces in Korea). In the process, a number of the civilian residents of Daechu-ri and Dodu-ri have had their land repeatedly taken by Japanese and U.S. forces. The residents of these villages have long suffered from the waste oil flowing from the military base, which has polluted the land and water, and have also suffered physical and psychological injuries from the explosive sounds coming from the military operations on the base. Unable to lodge complaints to the Korean government, the residents maintained their difficult farming livelihoods for over fifty years, resorting ! to measures such as securing new land by blocking out sea water. Now the residents are at a new risk of losing their land as a result of a reallocation plan between the Korean and U.S. governments to move U.S. bases in northern cities and Seoul, South Korea to Pyungtaek, expanding the Pyungtaek base to 4,084acres.
Since 2003, the residents of Daechu-ri and Dodu-ri have tried to inform Korean citizens of the injustice of this reallocation plan. They held candlelight vigils every night, and many Korean citizens traveled to Pyungtaek to join them. But the Korean government, which had entered the re-allocation plan without any consultation with the local residents, continued to refuse the residents¡¯ demand for dialogue. At a hearing held by the Ministry of Defense for the local residents, the government went as far as bringing in police forces to forcibly remove those residents who opposed the plan. In January 2005, the Ministry of Defense announced that it would complete land acquisition within 2005 and began forced expropriation. The remaining residents and citizens supporting them strove to keep their land fixing and inhabiting abandoned houses. Artists decorated the closed Daechu Elementary School and village fences with paintings and poetry, in an effort to turn Pyungtaek in! to a land of peace rather than of war. The government, however, persisted in refusing to hear the residents¡¯ stories and, in February 2006, the residents requested a meeting with the mayor of Pyungtaek, burning and returning their Resident Cards in protest. But, the mayor didn¡¯t come out to meet the residents.
Since March, when the Ministry of Defense began its forced expropriation procedures, the residents of Daechu-ri and Dodu-ri have had to spend every day in a war-like situation, always looking out for forcible military expropriations. Every time it became known that an expropriation was planned in Pyungtaek, the news was communicated by phone and internet to students, workers, and civil society groups, who rushed to Daechu-ri in solidarity. The residents and their supporters would stand guard all through the night in anticipation of police entry into the village, and tied themselves to the Daechu Elementary School in opposition to the police takeover of the school. One elderly woman resident laid herself down in front of a crane running over a paddy field. But the police and military, armed with clubs and shields, continued to crack down on the residents¡¯ peaceable demonstration efforts. The police and military destroyed the village: they poured cement into farming wa! terways, fenced in farmland that was just beginning to grow new crops, destroyed the elementary school that the residents had built by selling their farm produce, and even left their food waste lying around the village.
The residents had a simple wish when they began their fight, a fight they did not expect would last for four years. They only wanted to spend what little was left of their lives on their own lands. The government and the conservative press have accused the residents of trying to secure monetary compensation, or of having been manipulated by anti-American organizations. These accusations only hurt the village residents even more. To them, their land is worth more than monetary compensation; their land is like children to them. The only reason the residents have begun not only to oppose the army base expansion but also to suspect the existence of U.S. armed forces itself has been because of the Korean government¡¯s lies and its unilateralism. The fight, made more difficult by the fact that these residents are in their sixties and seventies, looks to be an indefinite one. Having taken the elementary school and fields, the Ministry of Defense has now ordered to the res! idents to leave their residential areas by June 30, and has announced that in October it will force them out of their residential areas. The residents therefore must now await another fight. Their wish to live in peace is small, but in order to achieve it they must and withstand severe pain and an almost unbearable wait.
What is the agreement between U.S. and Korea?
The current Pyungtaek U.S. armed forces expansion plan is part of the Bush administration¡¯s Global Posture Review (GPR), an effort to adjust the U.S. forces, previously concentrated in west Europe and northeast Asia to respond to the post-World War II cold war situation, to the new needs of combating weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Specifically, on March 29, 2002, the U.S. armed forces in Korea and the Korean Ministry of Defense entered an agreement for the U.S. to return to Korea a total of 33,605acres of U.S. armed forces land (55.3% of the total land currently provided to the U.S. armed forces), while the Korean government would newly provide 1,257acres of land in the Pyungtaek area for the U.S. armed forces. However, in the Future of the Alliance conference held between the two countries in July 2004, the countries agreed to increase both the returning land to 42,207acres (64% of the total land currently provided to the U.S. armed forces) and the newly ! provided land to 2,957acres. As a result, the U.S. armed forces in Korea will now be provided a total of 2,850acres of land in its reallocation of bases in Seoul and two other cities to Pyungtaek.
U.S. armed forces have thus far justified their presence in Korea by the purported need to protect South Korea from North Korea. But with the reallocation, the U.S. armed forces in Korea have now become part of the so-called ¡®Asia-Pacific Swift Mobilization Forces,¡¯ preparing for swift and aggressive intervention in the wars and conflicts of other countries. Indeed, on January 19, 2006, the Roh Moo-hyun administration agreed to grant the U.S. armed forces so-called ¡®strategic flexibility,¡¯ or the ability to intervene in conflicts in other northeast Asian or foreign countries. According to the current plans of the U.S. armed forces and the Korean Ministry of Defense, in a few years 10% of Pyungtaek will become a northeast Asian military focal point in which 90% of the total U.S. armed forces in Korea are based.
Send letters to South Korean government and urge the authorities to:
- Release human rights activists and citizens.
- Stop attempts to evict residents in Daechu-ri, Pyungtaek.
- Renew consultation with the locals so their concern can be addressed in a peaceful and humanitarian manner.
- Re-consider stopping military base expansion in Pyungtaek, for the sake of the elderly villagers and peace in the land of Korea.
* Send letters to:
President Roh Moo-hyun
1 Sejongno Jonno-gu
Seoul, South Korea (110-820)
Fax : (82) 2 770 4943
E-mail : webmaster@...
* Send copies to:
Minister of Defence, Yoon Kwang-woong
Ministry of Defence
22 Itaewon road, Yongsan-gu
Seoul, South Korea (104-701)
Fax: (82) 2 748 6026
Please send a softcopy of your letters to IFIS (ifis32@...).Visit my web page at http://daga.N3.net/maxWe often look at saints and heroes and think, "I so admire who they are, but I could never do what they do."Yet a legacy begins with a humble act. A simple invitation opens the portal into a new universe. God makes those invitations to us all of the time. Whether we choose to walk through that portal determines our destiny. - David Batstone
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