By Huh Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent
“Ever since the Second World War, the US has been building military alliances and setting up military bases overseas. A lot of those bases are in Japan and Korea. Jeju Island is less than 500 kilometers from Shanghai. It could end up on the front lines if a military conflict breaks out between the US and China.”
Internationally renowned filmmaker Oliver Stone said this about the naval base currently under construction on Jeju Island. The 67-year-old director, whose works on the Vietnam War include “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” met with the Hankyoreh on Aug. 3 at the Peace Center in Gangjeong Village in Jeju.
Noting the US’s overseas military strategy, Stone said the issue with the Jeju base was “global, not regional.”
“The Obama administration has adopted a ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy as a way of containing China,” he said. “It’s similar to the way the Soviet Union was contained during the Cold War. And in its push to do this, Washington has built or is building military alliances not just with South Korea and Japan, but with the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Cambodia, and Myanmar. It’s a foolish, paranoid strategy.”
In view of this strategy, the Jeju naval base may be a military extension of the US forces, who could eventually end up using it, Stone said.
The director said he came to Jeju after seeing documentaries by US directors on Gangjeong Village and the April 3 Uprising of 1948 and reading articles on the villagers battle against the construction.
“I wanted to see for myself,” he said. He arrived on the island on Aug. 2 for a three-day stay.
As soon as he arrived, he went to visit film critic Yang Yun-mo, who was arrested while campaigning against the base, as well as people involved in the Grand March for Life and Peace, an event organized to call for a halt to the construction. On Aug. 3, he went to see activists opposing the base in their battle against police at the construction site in Gangjeong - a visit that left him looking very troubled.
“They’re calling the people who oppose the base ‘pro-North Korea,’ but that’s a very simplistic expression and their methods are easy to attack,” Stone said. “But the residents and activists are very sincere about their home, their rights, and this beautiful island of Jeju.”
He also spoke on environmental concerns, noting the base was “destroying beautiful soft coral reefs and contaminating the water.”
“I’ve heard that Jeju water was some of the cleanest and best in the world,” he said. “What happens when it ends up getting polluted?”
“The Gangjeong residents and activists aren’t alone in their battle against the base. This is going beyond South Korea and turning into a worldwide issue,” he continued. “I don’t know how this battle is going to go, but the residents’ fight will not be forgotten.”
Following his trip to Jeju, Stone plans to head to the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic bombs were dropped during the Second World War. There, he plans to attend a conference opposing atomic and hydrogen bombs before traveling on to Okinawa, site of a large US military base.
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