23 March 2013, Republic of Korea

The day began on Jeju Island. There I learned more of the island’s pain.

After breakfast, the Rev. Dr. JC Lee and the Rev. Youn-Hong Kang took me to see more of the island’s history.

IMG_0366We began at the Jeju Museum of War, History and Peace. The museum provides education about the Japanese occupation of Jeju Island. It is located at the site of the Gama Oreum Underground Fortress. Here the Japanese used forced labor of the people of Jeju to construct an elaborate underground fortress to use as a defensive position to protect Japan from invasion by the United States. Japan had previously used Jeju as a staging ground for offensive maneuvers.

The next stop was the Seotal Oreum Massacre Site. The Jeju Weekly describes what happened:

In 1950, after the Korean war broke out, the Korean government issued orders of “preventative detention” of suspected communists and communist sympathizers. Of the 344 people the Moseulpo Police detained, 210 were illegally massacred in two mass killings at the base of Seotal Oreum.

At the site of the killings, Seotal Oreum makes a semi-circle around a small field. Apparently those who did the killings stood on the ridge with the victims gathered in the field.

A number of bunkers that once housed Japanese war planes can be seen from the Massacre Site.

IMG_0418Our final stop brought us to an encampment of protestors against the naval base being built at Gangjeong village. The base is being built for the navy of the Republic of Korea. However, some have expressed the view that the base can accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. Environmentalists raise concerns for the coastline surrounding Gangjeong Village. Natural fresh-water springs bubble up through the surface. Local villagers consider the site and the water sacred. In addition to the environmental issues, questions exist concerning the process by which the local villagers were consulted. Should the base be completed, many of the local residents will have to relocate. It is unclear where the funds for that relocation will come from.

But beyond all that, in 2005 then South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun, apologized for the Jeju April 3 incident in which between 20,000 and 30,000 islanders were killed. He designated Jeju as an “Island of World Peace.” Why does an Island of World Peace need a naval base?

I had much to ponder on the drive to the airport and the flight to Gimpo International Airport. I have much to ponder still as I sit in a hotel room in Suwon.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Travel

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