JEJU ISLAND: FIRST CASUALTY OF OBAMA’S “PACIFIC PIVOT”?

RESISTING THE NAVAL BASE ON JEJU ISLAND: Church of the Crossroads, November 29, 6-8pm  Koohan Paik, a Hawai’i-Island-based, Korean-American peace activist, will be speaking about one of the newest (and most impassioned) resistance movements to US militarism – that taking place on the small “island paradise” of Jeju, South Korea.  Paik recently returned from the Jeju village of Gangjeong and will describe the determined efforts of the peace activists to stop the naval base construction at Gangjeong village, and the strategies and campaigns which have brought the eyes of the world to their struggle.  She will be introduced by Honolulu Friends (Quaker) Center’s Kristin Douglas, who spent three months as a peace activist in Gangjeong Village.

Hawai‘i and Jeju: Can the story of our past inform Jeju’s present?

Pearl Harbor was Awalau o Pu’uloa, long ago the food basket of O‘ahu with 36 fishponds and pure water flowing down from the high valleys through lo‘i kalo.  Since those pristine bays began to be used for military bases, contamination in Pearl Harbor has killed marine and plant life and left none of its food fit for consumption.  Dioxins and PCB; explosives and propellants; heavy metals such as lead and mercury; napalm, chemical weapons and radioactive waste from nuclear powered ships have been found in sediment at Pearl Harbor.

Is this what is to become of Jeju, Island of Peace?  This UNESCO World Natural Heritage site is home to the world’s largest and most perfectly intact temperate soft-coral habitat in the world – a 15-acre undersea wonderland.  This will be destroyed when the seabed is dredged so that US warships can get in and out of port.  The water from lava aquifers ran pure enough to drink out of the streams, until construction began on the base.  Will the whole region become like the Superfund site, Pearl Harbor?

The Jeju base is part of the “Pacific Pivot” – the Pentagon’s new strategy to shift the US military’s focus to the Asia-Pacific region. The announcement last year was a signal to China that the United States would not permit its ascendance to advance any further into the US’s historic zone of economic and military domination, which dates back to the nineteenth-century occupations of the Philippines, Guam and Hawai’i. But the announcement of the Pacific Pivot also raised a red flag for environmentalists, indigenous peoples of the region, and small states within the Pacific Basin, who fear the consequences of this new geopolitical struggle. As an African saying goes: “When the elephants battle, the ants get crushed.”

We have a deep connection, island to island.  How can the stories of resistance in Jeju guide us to restore and reclaim our future?

Join us. Dig into the complexities.  Imagine a different future!

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