19 September 2012
Reflections after 8 days in Gangjeong Village
Regis Tremblay
Woolwich, Maine


Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island, Republic of Korea

I have been here now for 9 days and it has been a whirlwind of activity. I am deeply appreciative of your help in making this trip possible. I knew about Gangjeong Village, of course, from Bruce Gagnon, but one has to be here to really appreciate how serious this problem is. The villagers of Gangjeong are all of us, for this battle is a microcosm of what is happening the world over.

The difference, of course, is this is happening "in their backyard," and they have been fighting daily for five years. Fr. Mun told me yesterday in a wonderful, candid interview that he and the activists are exhausted and need more help, i.e. people from Korea and away to reinforce their efforts. All of the activists, young and old, are "in this fight to the death." Wish some of that commitment would rub off on Americans! This makes Occupy look like kindergarten stuff.

Many people have been arrested, tried, fined, and some jailed for long periods of time....for trying to defend their land from the destruction of bulldozers, earth movers, and blasting on Gureombi Rock, which they believe is alive and a sacred place. They are arrested for climbing on cranes, cement trucks, cutting through barbed wire to gain access to Gureombi, and for blocking the gates so the dozens of cement trucks cannot enter the walled base area....this latter action takes place as many as ten times a day. The Jesuit priests are there all day every day with as many as 20 young and not so young activists who lock arms to form a human chain to make it harder for the police to tear them apart and drag them away from the gate. Some do not resist, but remain seated in chairs or on the ground and are carried away by the police.

Fr. Mun is the most well-know of the activists. He has been beaten and arrested many times over the past 5 years. He's in his seventies, walks with a cane because he fell from a 20 ft high tetrapod and broke bones in his back. He was hospitalize for a month and told he may not walk again. But, there he is, everyday, sitting in front of the gate in his chair. He also concelebrates mass from his chair across the street from where daily mass takes place at 11 am. He often gives stirring homilies to inspire activists and to denounce the police occupiers.

Yesterday, more than 200 police lined up at the main gate to remove 10 activists. Fr. Mun noticed a man taking video across from his seat and charged him, grabbing his shirt and struggling against the police who were protecting this thug. The thug had pulled Fr. Mun's long beard a month ago and ripped hair from his face. Fr. Mun was angry and went after him. I got the whole thing on video, as well as two Jesuit priests who joined in to help Fr. Mun and to run the thug off.

I've been eating only Korean food in the "dining hall" which is really a large rectangular tent with freezers, refrigerators, gas stove stops, storage for food and a long table running the entire length of the place which is about 40 ft long! Activists take their meals there three times a day, but the evening meal is the most attended with 20-30 people, including international visitors. The sense of community is tangible and sincere. All are welcomed here. I have been received with open arms and treated like a VIP.

The activists depend on donations from Jeju Island, the mainland, and from supporters around the world to provide food and things they need to make signs, posters, newsletters, etc. And, by the way, the food is out of this world. Many volunteer to help with preparation and cooking, but there are currently two young women who are doing all of the cooking, and they are awesome cooks. Hey, for those of you who are wondering, I'm also eating Kimchi, but have to admit, I wouldn't order it in a restaurant! LoL :)  Everyone is responsible for washing their own dishes and cleaning up.

In the evenings, I have attended candle light vigils where people share their thoughts, feelings, and reflections. Visitors are included. What follows is signing and dancing, and then people gather outside to eat and drink Makali, the local rice wine. It looks like milk, tastes sweet, and only has about 8% alcohol. These informal gatherings can go on until 1 am! People just enjoying each others company.

It is truly unbelievable to watch these people being beaten back and abused by the police all day long and then engage in happy conversation, singing and dancing in the evening. I have never seen such resilience, perseverance and happiness in the face of such evil.

My day usually begins at 7 am when I get a cup of coffee and begin work on labeling the hundreds of video clips I shoot each day. The camera is with me at all times. I will walk down to the two gates and wait for the cement trucks to arrive or depart the base and film the resulting police action. I film the daily mass, lunch, people coming and going in the International Peace Center, talk with people, and film the many signs, posters, and flags that are all about the village.

I am being assisted now by a beautiful Korean woman who has worked as an assistant director for a Korean documentary. Her name is Seri and she is very competent. Since she speaks English quite well, she schedules interviews with the villagers and activists and assists with the shoots and with translating. Oh, and she has a car. So, for the price of a full tank, she takes me and my 85 lbs of video equipment all over. Seri is worried that "I get this documentary right." So, I am going to try to raise the money for her airfare to Maine where she can assist with the final editing of the documentary. Bruce has offered her a place to stay at his house and she will be well cared for.

My young friends at Patracompany, with whom I have worked for almost five years now will help with the final editing, graphic design and audio mixing. This will be a first-class, very professional documentary that I hope will inform not only Americans, but people around the world about this fight against the American-NATO imperial domination of the planet. It will be the first English language film and I only hope that I can tell the story effectively.

When I arrived, I thought I had an idea what the story would be, but after being here, I have decided to just live it everyday, shoot as much video as I can, and let the story come to me later.

The people of Gangjeong Village and Jeju Island need our help. My film will encourage people to come here as reinforcements, send money, buy artwork created by activist artists, and share the video widely.

I will leave you with this: the struggle here is about human rights, civil rights, and environmental rights that effect all of us. In America and around the world, people are being subdued by the militarization of their local police forces and their rights are being denied as the military industrial complex, the U.S. government, the oil companies and the multinational corporations take over our governments, rape the planet and enslave us all. Everyone in Seoul and here on Jeju that I have met know and understand this and plead with Americans to become informed and learn the truth about what the U.S. government is doing around the world.

Fr. Mun told me in an interview yesterday, and for now I paraphrase, that "America is being isolated in the world and soon will have no friends anywhere on the planet." He went on to say, "the American government is the big evil in the world and must be stopped." "One day, America will be defeated," he concluded. I think this was a very ominous prophetic utterance from a very holy and wise man.

Global Network