Peace activists protest International Naval Review in waters off Jeju

Posted on : 2018-10-11 17:05 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Demonstrators mainly from groups opposed to island’s naval base
The Republic of Korea Navy in a rehearsal of the International Naval Review off the waters of Jeju Island on Oct. 9. (provided by the ROK Navy)
The Republic of Korea Navy in a rehearsal of the International Naval Review off the waters of Jeju Island on Oct. 9. (provided by the ROK Navy)

As the South Korean navy’s International Naval Review kicked off at a naval base on Jeju Island on Oct. 10, peace activists launched a campaign in opposition of the review. The Jeju branch of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) came forward to criticize the review organizers for trying to recruit students to participate in one of the associated events.

Starting on Wednesday, a number of civic groups – including the Residents’ Association Opposing the Naval Base at Gangjeong Village, the Island Residents’ Action Committee for Blocking the Military Base on Jeju and Creating an Island of Peace, and the National Action Committee on the Jeju Naval Base – launched a number of activities under the umbrella of Joint Action to Oppose the Navy’s 2018 International Naval Review and Defend the Island of Peace. On Wednesday afternoon, activists paddled several kayaks from nearby Beophwan Village toward the Jeju Naval Base and shouted slogans opposing the hosting of the naval review.

“Hosting the International Naval Review is an attempt to bring international attention to the Jeju Naval Base, and it make the ‘island of peace’ a place of tension,” the activists said.

On Wednesday, the Jeju branch of the KTU released a statement criticizing the Jeju Provincial Office of Education. “The navy and the Jeju Education Office sent out an official notice asking teachers and students to participate in the ‘Cherish Jeju, Cherish the Sea’ writing contest, an event associated with the International Naval Review being held at the Jeju Naval Base on Oct. 13. They’re trying to rope students into an anachronistic, jingoistic literary event,” the KTU said in the statement.

The St. Francis Peace Center, which is located in Gangjeong Village and directed by Bishop Peter Kang U-il, released a statement of its own on Oct. 8.

“The government and the navy promised that the president would make a statement of regret and fund community recovery projects as a condition of hosting the International Fleet Review. But there are concerns that this is an attempt to cover up the naval base issue without carrying out a proper investigation into the illegality and violence that occurred during its construction,” the statement said.

Statement issued by 435 peace activists from 35 countries against naval review

A statement issued the same day by 435 peace activists from 35 countries, including progressive US scholar Noam Chomsky, said the naval base “was constructed on top of state violence against the villagers, lies, and destruction of the natural environment.”

“[T]he International Fleet Review will internationally establish the existence and military use of the Jeju Naval Base,” the statement added.

Joint Action and KCTU’s Jeju headquarters plan to hold a rally in front of Jeju Naval base at 11 am on Oct. 11 to denounce the review.

Meanwhile, a naval review is set to take place in Jeju’s southern waters on Oct. 11 as the centerpiece of the International Fleet Review from Oct. 10 to 14. Warships and aircraft from South Korea and 12 other countries are scheduled to take part in the naval review. Nineteen vessels from 12 countries are participating in the review, including the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Russia’s Varyag cruiser, Australia’s HMAS Melbourne, and the Indonesian sail training ship KRI Bima Suci.

Forty-six countries are to be represented in a delegation of foreign navies. A total of 43 South Korean vessels are to participate.

By Huh Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent

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