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More than 1,000 South Korean riot police raid Gangjeong village
South Korean police in full riot gear violently clash with citizens resisting the construction of a naval base in their scenic fishing village. This comes a day before Gangjeong is set to host a peace festival attracting thousands of visitors.
By: Matthew Hoey, Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island
Riot police were met by a human blockade of villagers and activists, including hundreds of visiting college students. By 9 a.m., 33 protestors were arrested, including villagers, Catholic priests, visiting artists and citizen journalists. Several were wounded and hospitalized.
During the standoff, police erected a 30-foot wall sealing off villagers and activists from entering the resistance camp inside the naval base construction site. Police have already moved in heavy equipment to restart construction.
Major roads going into the village center have also been blocked. Many parts of the village are surrounded and citizens are unable to find passage. There are reports that the only public bus service running from Jeju Airport to the village center has been diverted.
The violent raid came one day before the Sept. 3 weekend peace festival with an estimated 2,000 people visiting from throughout the island and the mainland, including a chartered plane of 200 people.
Gangjeong Village Mayor Kang Dong-kyun and five other villagers and activists remain detained in prison for charges of “obstructing business.” The courts have also issued injunctions against 37 villagers and activists that if they come near the base site, they will be fined 2 million won ($1876.00 USD) each time.
In 2007, the Jeju government announced Gangjeong as the site of the naval base after an illegal “vote” where 87 villagers (less than 10 percent of the total village) approved the base. Ballots were not used; instead clapping determined the outcome.
A legitimate vote was later held in the village in which 94 percent of Gangjeong residents voted against the base. The government ignored these results.
Recently the mayor of Gangjeong stated that the resistance would conclude protests if the village were allowed a referendum to determine its own fate. For nearly five years, villagers have been waging a nonviolent peaceful resistance against the naval base. For more information, visit www.savejejuisland.org.
Media Contacts in Korea:
Sunghee Choi: 82.11.4767.1053
Yunae Park: 82.11.4571.0988
Contact in the United States:
Matthew Hoey: 617.953.1305
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Page Updated Last on: Sep 02, 2011