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Churches too quiet


A banner on the shore JeJu Island reads, “Stop the Naval weapons base! No more relocation [of the base] to the beautiful  village of Gangjeong!” – photo provided

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August 5, 2011
-Dan Dyck

Waterloo, ONT.  “The sad thing is, the churches are too quiet,” writes Kyong-Jung Kim, Director of the Korea Anabaptist Center. “Either they don’t pay attention to this or they don’t want to step on boundaries that are not welcome by government.”

Kyong-Jung is referring to the expropriation of property to build a naval base. Ironically, the naval base is being built on JeJu Island, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and designated an “Island of World Peace” by the former president Roh Moo-Hyun in 2006.

The naval base is being “forcefully” constructed near Gangjeong village, a gathering of perhaps 1500 farmers and fishers, say activists. As a strategic military location in close proximity to Korea, mainland China and Japan, the island has for centuries endured colonization and conflict. JeJu Island became an autonomous province of South Korea in 1946, but has enjoyed little autonomy. Just two years later a civil conflict, spilled over from mainland Korea, cost the lives of 30,000 islanders.

For its part, the Korean Navy claims that the new «eco-friendly» naval base will create jobs and increased security for the island. Anders Riel Müller of the Korea Policy Institute, an independent research and educational organization, recently visited the island. He shares in his report that, “…it is difficult to imagine an eco-friendly 50-hectare naval base that will house 8,000 marines, up to 20 destroyers, several submarines and two 150,000- ton luxury cruise liners.”

In an email prayer request, Kyong-Jung noted there are many legitimate reasons for civil society to seek a halt to the construction of the naval base. Local protestors cite environmental destruction, loss of an agrarian culture and the changes it will bring to the local economy, as well as the transformation of a peaceful island into a military target.

These are strong humanitarian incentives, but Kyong-Jung focuses on a more important reason, one that should inspire churches to take action “… we as Christians cannot help thinking of Jesus› teaching and action for peace. Jesus would have wept over again if he were standing with us in our situation today,” he writes, citing Luke 19:42 and Psalms 2:1.

Advocacy letters can be sent to: Embassy of the Republic of Korea, 150 Boteler St., Ottawa Ontario, Canada, K1N 5A6; Tel : 613-244-5010; Fax : 613-244-5034

Mennonite Church Canada partners with the Korea Anabaptist Center to provide resources for peacemaking, discipleship, and Christian community in South Korea.