I had the opportunity to travel to Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea in the East China Sea from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4. I previously spent four days in Manila, Philippines, where I was invited to speak at the first Asia Pacific Dialogue on Human Rights and Respect for the Dignity of Life with the theme: “No Justice Without Life.” I left an amazing community in Manila standing for life and justice and saying “No” to state-sponsored killing. In coming to Jeju Island, I met another extraordinary gathering of people who are saying “Yes” to creation and “No” to the construction of new naval base that is a crime and a sin.
For several years, I have been closely following this inspiring nonviolent campaign led by local islanders along with priests and sisters to stop the construction of this U.S.-backed Korean naval base on Jeju Island (named the “Island of Peace” by the Korean government).
UNESCO considers Jeju Island and nearby Beom Island, Moon Island, Seop Island, and Hallasan National Park biosphere reserves. The construction of this base, which is a joint Korean, U.S. and Japanese venture with Samsung as the main contractor, is destroying the beautiful ecosystem of the island as well as the majestic soft coral reefs and surrounding ocean life.
The ancient Gureombi rock formation no longer exists, having been blasted away two years ago. In the March 2014 issue of the Gangjeong Village Story monthly newsletter, the lead article lamented the second anniversary of the destruction of this sacred formation: “For thousands of years, Gureombi has been a playground, a garden, and a mother’s arms, embracing and embraced by the people of Gangjeong. Thus it was perhaps the most painful and sorrowful moment of this 8 year struggle to experience the partial destruction of Gureombi Rock. Still, though we cannot see Gureombi anymore, it lives on in our memories.”…