South Koreans Clash With Police Over US Base
By Lee Jae-won
Wednesday 03 May 2006
Pyongtaek, South Korea - South Korean riot police fought pitched
battles with anti-U.S. protesters and farmers on Thursday, as
authorities moved to clear two rural townships to pave the way for a
new U.S. military base.
About 1,000 protesters, many wielding bamboo sticks, clashed with
police armed with batons in an area about 70 km (44 miles) south of
Seoul where land for the base has been allocated.
Scores of protesters were hurt, with at least two, who appeared to
be unconscious, carried away on stretchers.
Reuters photographer Lee Jae-won and about a dozen other
journalists, wearing helmets and armbands identifying them as media,
were also hurt after being beaten by police.
Lee suffered lacerated lips and hands.
The confrontation has been brewing for months since about 100
farmers refused to vacate the area where South Korea and the United
States agreed two years ago to move the main U.S. military base now in
Seoul and several others throughout the country.
The number of protesters, many of whom are anti-U.S. activists,
unionists and students, swelled overnight after reports the government
would send in thousands of police and military engineers to clear the
9.4-square km (3.6-square mile) area.
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said the project, which had been
authorized by South Korea's parliament, could no longer be delayed.
"It is unacceptable that some opponents of this national project
are taking advantage of local residents by turning it into a political
battle," Yoon said in a statement.
South Korea's military would take no part in the eviction, and
military engineers and ground troops deployed in the area would be
kept away from protesters, he said.
About 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed in the country alongside
South Korea's military to defend against possible aggression by
communist North Korea.
South and North Korea remain technically at war under the
inconclusive truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean war.
Seoul has said further delay in the base relocation could cause
diplomatic friction with Washington.
Last-ditch talks between government and residents aimed at a
compromise broke down on Monday. Local residents, mostly elderly
farmers, and protesters have said no amount of compensation can
justify the move.
"This is precious land that generations of farmers have made
rich," said Song Hyun, 86, on the edge of rice fields before the
police moved in.
"It is heartbreaking that they are trying to take such good land
away from us."
South Korean Farmers Fight Displacement for US Military Base
Sunday 19 March 2006
Pyeongtaek, South Korea - Two backhoes begin gutting the rice
paddies on the far side of the fields. Nearly one thousand riot police
stand attentive at the edge of the field, armed with batons and
shields. Thousands more are posted around the periphery of the
village. An untold number wait at adjacent Camp Humphreys Army base,
while hundreds monitor street intersections and key access points to
the area, preventing any tractors or farming equipment to arrive for
the March 17 spring cultivation. As the supporters realize that the
destruction has already begun, they race down the long narrow concrete
path that divides the vast fields. It snowed the past few days, and
the paddies ar thick with mud. Protestors immediately surround the
machines, who halt their excavating so as not to crush anyone. Someone
climbs on top of the giant arm and secures himself to it. Elderly
women lie down in front of the massive treads while people attempt to
get inside the cab of the backhoe.
The crowd of people split in two to confront each machine. The
riot police stand at the edge of the fields, motionless, awaiting
orders. There is a scuffle between an agitator and a protestor, and
they tumble into the eight foot pit carved from formerly fertile soil.
Video and still cameras point in all directions, daring the police or
plain-clothed thugs to commit an atrocity under the gaze of the
"media." Unable to continue the digging, the machines stand idle as
people surrounding them are shouting and crying. The residents of
Daechuri have feared this moment for years, the day their land would
be transformed into dead earth, a mere platform for the U.S. military
to expand its operational base and recreational facilities. Suddenly,
the backhoes begin moving again, but instead of continuing their
excavation the backhoes begin refilling the pits with the dirt that
they had just removed. Elation passes through the crowd upon seeimg
these workers disobey their orders and follow their hearts. Then the
military riot police move into action, marching around the section of
the field, cutting off all sides. They occupy two bridges, to prevent
any more protestors in the village from joining. For a while there is
a stand off. An eighty-year-old woman feignts and is taken to the
hospital. The police begin to arrest people. Many protestors resist
and are beaten down. Elderly villagers hurl mud at the police. Some
people on the edges of the field cut through parts of the fence and
set small fires on the army base. The struggle continues for hours,
with police surronding the backhoes now covered with activists, with
neither side gaining or losing much ground. Before nightfall, the
police backed off, the day had been won, the fields still exist.
Overall, 40 people are arrested. Many are injured, with broken wrists
and ankles. At least two are still hospitalized in serious condition.
Injured, exhausted, and running low on supplies and reinforcements,
the residents of Daechuri and supporters of the Peace Village fear
what will come tomorrow. There is word that the police will attack the
elementary school again, the headquarters for the Peace Village. They
desparately need more people to help defend.
On March 6th, 2006, South Korean military riot police began an
attack on the autonomous village of Daechuri. For over four years,
Daechuri and the nearby community of Doduri have defiantly resisted
the siezure of their homes and fields for the expansion of an United
States Army base. Barracaded inside the elementary school, rice
farmers, elderly residents, and peace activists are holding out
against sporadic, sometimes intense attacks by Korea's elite military
police force. International support is needed to pressure the Korean
government to halt its brutal assault.
Utilizing tractors as road blocks, human shields chained to the
school gates, and the courage of a people fighting for their homes and
lives, they have, so far, resisted wave after wave of attacks by
hundreds of military riot police. Residents and peace activists have
suffered beatings and arrests, while inside the school, activists
upload news updates, video of the attacks, and make pleas for
immediate aid. They are exhausted and dehydrated, and in need of
reinforcements and supplies. International observers, journalists, and
anyone with a phone or a computer can take action now.
The expansion of U.S. Army base Camp Humphreys (K-6) is part of
the Global Repositioning Plan, first outlined by the Project for a New
American Century (PNAC) and later adopted as the Bush Administration's
strategy for consolidating its military hegemony over Northeast Asia.
Opposition to the expansion of the base has come from many diverse
currents within Korean society. Apart from community displacement,
many have also highlighted issues including the devastating
environmental impact of US bases, the violent crimes committed by US
troops stationed on the peninsula, the issue of human trafficking and
forced prostitution which surrounds the bases, and the potential for a
new arms race that could destabilize all of Northeast Asia.
Currently, Camp Humphreys occupies 3,734 acres. However, in
December 2004 the Korean government pledged to give over an additional
2,851 acres for the base facilities. But this land is flat, rich farm
land stretching as far as the horizon. With this new expansion, some
1,372 residents will be driven off their land. Many are elderly people
in the 60s and 70s. Fifty years ago these communities lost their land
as 2 foreign forces (first Japanese, then American) built and expanded
the base. Now for the 3rd time they will experience being forced off
their own land. The Korean Ministry of National Defence (MND), has
publicly declared that it will make the houses unlivable and the land
untillable. If anyone touches an empty house they will be fined. To
prevent people from engaging in agriculture the water lines have been
cut and barbed wire has been laid.
Residents and Korean peace organizations have been fighting the
proposed expansion through legal means since 2001, all the while being
deceived and ignored by officials, which finally prompted them to take
matters into their own hands. In Feb 2005, Nomads for Peace "Peace
Wind" moved into the village and initiated a variety of supportive
activities while living with the residents. Last March, NGOs from all
over Korea formed a Counter Measures Comittee to join with the
residents of Pyongtaek in educational programs, publicity and
Eventually weary of the struggle, some villagers accepted the
compensation money and left, others were intimidated into fleeing, but
many farmers and their families refused to surrender their homes and
livelihood to a foreign power's imperial ambitions.
A national campaign formed, including a tractor driven "Peace
Pilgrimage", as well as massive solidarity rallies. In November of
'05, two Korean farmers died at the hands of riot police in Seoul. In
December, 2005, the Land Expropriation Committee approved the
"imminent domain" seizure of Daechuri, Doduri and the surrounding
fields. The farmers' existence on their own land was now illegal.
Outraged and dissillusioned with the corrupt beaurocracy of an
indifferent government, in February, farmers marched to Pyeongtaek
city hall and burned their "residency cards", renounced their Korean
citizenship and declared Daechuri an autonomous region.
Within this rebel territory, a vibrant community has flourished.
Artists, musicians, peace activists, and religious leaders have joined
with the residents, repairing and occupying vacant houses, and
creating a "Peace Village". Murals of hope and resistance have
appeared on blank walls, flags and banners opposing the American base
expansion and U.S. imperialsim hang throughout the town. Traditional,
shamanistic "totem poles" were carved in order to chase out the evil
spirits plaguing the farmers. Every day, for over 550 days, residents
and visitors have gathered in the Peace Village for a candlelight
vigil. Famous Korean entertainers have made appearances and popular
musicians held concerts to highlight the cause and encourage the
farmers to continue fighting. Faced with the greatest tragedy of their
lives, the villagers and their supporters have created a community of
inspirational beauty and power
These peaceful farming communities are now being uprooted and
brutalized due to American military expansion. Attacks against the
village by Korean authorities will continue until the U.S. withdraws
its proposal for base expansion. Only massive international solidarity
can save this land.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW