Jeju base discussed at NYU forum

Posted on : 2011-09-28 13:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Opposition to the base continues to gain traction overseas, as activists and academics voice criticism
 Sept. 24.
Sept. 24.

By Ronda Hauben, Freelance Journalist


“The Art of Resistance on Jeju, Island of Peace” was the subject of a program at New York University on Saturday, Sept. 24. The program described the protest on Jeju Island against the building of the Gangjeong Naval Base. Koh Gil-chun, an artist from Jeju, and Gloria Steinem, American author and feminist activist, gave presentations to an audience of students, activists and other interested people. Hong Suk-jong, a researcher and activist, was the moderator who introduced the program, placing the anti-base struggle in Jeju in its broader context.

Gloria Steinem said she first traveled to Jeju nine years ago, and was impressed with the beauty of the island. More recently, she was invited to visit Gangjeong Village and to see the damage to the people and natural beauty of Jeju being wrought by the construction of the naval base. Steinem also mentioned that before he died, the former president of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun said that he regretted only two things during his presidency of South Korea. These were sending troops to Iraq and allowing the construction of a naval base on Jeju.

Koh Gil-chun shared his artwork through slides, showing the devastation suffered by the people of Jeju after the April 3 Uprising in 1948 when they tried to prevent the division of Korea. In the following two years, many thousands of Jeju residents were killed by the military to suppress their struggle for reunification. The U.S. military government sent police and soldiers from the mainland, who conducted a scorched earth suppression of the uprising.

Koh’s artwork links the current struggle of the Jeju villagers to the heroic struggle of Koreans living south of the 38th parallel against the imposition of US military rule after WWII and the arbitrary division of Korea set in place by the 1948 United Nations election that created South Korea.

Koh also presented some of his artwork protesting the devastation being brought to Jeju and its people by the construction of a new naval base on what has been a UNESCO-designated World Natural Heritage site. This artwork was a form of graffiti, which he painted on walls and other areas near the construction site.

During the short question and answer session, the issue of Chinese tourists to Jeju and the effect that the naval base would have on that tourist business was discussed. There has been discussion in the Chinese media about the danger the naval base will represent for China. Already there has been a debate among over 200 Chinese Netizens on one Chinese website over whether Chinese tourists should boycott Jeju if the naval base construction is completed.

The program was sponsored by NYU’s Korean Studies Colloquium Series and Asian/Pacific/American Institute. It was co-sponsored by Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.


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