Columbans support vigil to ‘Save Jeju’
13th May 2012 - by Ellen Teague
Columban JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) joined around 60 people holding a vigil on 9 May outside the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Central London to urge that construction of a military base on the Korean island of Jeju be halted.
Pax Christi, National Justice and Peace Network, London Catholic Worker, and Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace were also represented during the three-hour vigil. Among the placards were: ‘NO GO says Columban Mission – Save Jeju Island’, ‘Pax Christi in solidarity with the people of Ganjeong – Don’t turn Jeju into an island of war’ and ‘No naval base on Jeju island – Protect the Earth’. They stood in the rain, learning Korean chants calling for justice and peace, and handed in letters to the Embassy during the good-natured and colourful demonstration. A number of young Koreans, wearing yellow ‘Jeju’ tee-shirts, were involved.
Strong disapproval was expressed concerning the bulldozing and blastings that are already devastating one of South Korea’s most popular and precious natural sites. Despite brutal arrests, villagers continue protesting and have urgently appealed for international support to help stop this disaster. Jeju Island is so magnificent it’s being considered as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but the South Korean and U.S. governments want to build a massive naval base and launching pad for ballistic missiles.
Columban priest Aodh O’Halpin expressed support for Columbans in Korea who have been involved in Masses and vigils on Jeju itself and in nonviolent protests at the Seoul offices of Samsung, which is undertaking much of the construction work. Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi UK, reported that Pax Christi internationally is supporting the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea which has criticised the building of a naval base on Jeju, an island which lies just 300 miles from mainland China. Kate Hudson, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said that “for the island itself this is a monstrous development, but it also presents a great danger to this region and indeed to the whole world”.
The mayor of the affected village of Gangjeong on Jeju sent a touching message of thanks to all supporting his community through the recent years of turmoil and stress. International peace campaigner, Angie Zelter, who visited the island in March, met embassy staff, but reported back that they did not really engage with the issue or the concerns of the protestors outside. Demonstrators pledged to continue nonviolence protests on the issue.
More photos of the Embassy vigil:
Article on Jeju protest by Fr John Dear:
Video Footage of the protest:
An international AVAAZ Petition can be signed at:
Main ‘Save Jeju Island’ website:
Text of a letter from Columban JPIC, handed into Embassy and addressed to the Korean Ambassador in London:
Dear Ambassador Choo Kuy Ho
We write to you as Columban missionaries with colleagues based in Korea. A number of them have been involved at Masses and vigils at Jeju, urging you to halt construction of the military base there. We support their actions.
We are here today – keeping vigil – in solidarity with the people of Gangjeong village on the island of Jeju and with those groups and religious networks around the world who are supporting them. As a Catholic missionary society we are aware that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea has spoken out strongly against the plans of the Government of the Republic of Korea to continue with the building of a naval base on Jeju. Speaking earlier this year Bishop Peter Kang U-il said, “It is essential that the naval base plan be abandoned, for the sake of Jeju residents and the whole of the Republic of Korea”.
We understand that work to blast the sacred Gureombi rocks has begun. We know that the building of the base, as well as its long-term presence, is being strongly resisted on grounds of environmental destruction, damage to the existing community and the likelihood that this base will become a focus for US security operations in the region. We support nonviolent resistance to this work and urge your Government to take a brave stand and cancel this project.
Please do not destroy the island paradise of Jeju and its communities. It is a moral crime to cover Jeju’s fertile farmlands with concrete, and to destroy its rare, soft-coral reef. The Gangjeong villagers depend on their farms, and the planet depends on healthy reefs to live. Jeju is sacred to all the people of the world, not only to the Korean people. If current tensions between China and the U.S. escalate in the South China Sea, if there is a naval base, the first target of attack by China will be Jeju Island. Please stop the militarisation of Peace Island.
I ask you to pass this letter on to your own President, Mr Lee Myung-Bak.
Yours in peace
Fr Peter Hughes, Fr Frank Nally, Fr Aodh O’Halpin, Ellen Teague
Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Team,
St. Joseph’s, Watford Way, Hendon, London, NW4 4TY