By Dae Han Song
The International Peace March started July 3rd at Gangjeong Village and continues until July 27th – the 60 year anniversary of the Armistice Agreement – when rallies will be held in front of the US Embassy and Military bases in Seoul calling for a peace treaty to finally conclude the Korean War. Along the way, marchers will visit sites of the Korean War and ongoing struggles to reflect upon the connections between war, military spending, and division to militarization, social welfare, and political repression.
The cultural night before the start of the international peace march. Melodies of struggle float upon warm tropical breezes. (To watch and listen to the performances click here)
Our first day of marching starts at Gangjeong Village, currently a site of struggle against construction of a naval base (for more visit: http://savejejunow.org/). Villagers and peace activists in South Korea and around the world oppose the naval base construction not only due to the destruction of villager’s livelihoods and the environment, but also due to its potential use as the site of a missile defense system. Located approximately 300 miles from Shanghai, this future naval base would very likely house a US missile defense system to neutralize China’s missile capabilities. Above, the president of the Task Force Against Construction of the Jeju Naval Base updates us on the struggle. Due to the various fines levied against the protestors by the government, the villagers are considering selling their community building to pay for outstanding fines.
With construction taking place behind us, across a body of water, a member of the Unified Progressive Party relates the current status of the Naval Base construction: 30% completed, typhoons continue to halt and destroy construction. This has resulted in delays and budgets ballooning past the projected budget.
“Peace is the Way”
All along the construction site protestors have created sites of occupation and art calling for peace
and a halt to construction of the naval base.
After occupations and direct resistance, Samsung, the construction company, erected barriers all along the construction site. The press conference launching the march is taking place at the entrance of the construction site.
At the press conference, the mayor of Gangjeong Village calls for peace, “The struggle in Gangjeong is directly connected to the struggle for a peace treaty.” Printed on the vest of an international peace marcher: “Walking Towards Peace: An International Peace March to end the 60 year armistice agreement and establish a peace treaty.”
Marching while some chat and others upload photos and updates on social networking sites.
A banner reads “Oppose the Naval Base to the Death”
A moment of silence and reflection in honor of those killed during the April 3rd Jeju Uprising. Protests had erupted in Jeju against the separate 1948 elections in North and South Korea; subsequent police repression and torture along with the deployment of the right wing Northwest Youth Corps later sparked a guerrilla uprising. The police and military suppressed the guerrillas in 1949 in the process killing 25,000 to 30,000 islanders (1 in every 5 islanders) and destroying 230 villages (more than half). At times, even when events are recorded in history, they nonetheless remain absent from the public’s consciousness. Moments such as these are a reminder of the tragedies and horrors of war and testify to the need for peace.
Rooted upon the people’s committees that emerged spontaneously around the nation immediately after the end of Japanese colonialism, the Korea Committee for the Preparation of State Construction was an organic body established for creation of an independent state. However, these autonomous state construction efforts were shunned by the United States, whose separate state formation process revolved around Synghman Rhee and former Japanese collaborators. The areas in orange in the map indicate cities and villages governed by people’s committees.
The grave sites of those killed in the April 3rd Uprisings.
One of the delegation, a netizen (internet activist) who traversed South Korea multiple times,
brings along Che’s spirit.
A cancelled rally offers the opportunity to practice our movement song and dance.
Marching in Changwon City.
Changwon City emerged and developed out of the surrounding industrial complexes. It is one of the few cities with a progressive character in the strongly conservative South Gyeongsang Province,.
Making new friends along the way
Members of local branches of Korea Womens Solidarity pump their fists while chanting for a peace treaty.
The letters above the altar read: “Prayer Ceremony for Peace.”
A ceremony is held at the base of Jiri mountain to commemorate the guerrilla fighters against Japanese colonialism and, soon after, against the Synghman Rhee government. Above, two surviving family members of guerrilla fighters
pay their respects.
Family members, peace marchers, and others hold up a cloth path, as a shaman
“sends” off the spirits of the dead.
A Korean masked dancer plays a villager snatched from an idyllic existence and thrown into war.
In the distance, the Jiri mountains – a guerrilla stronghold – can be seen behind the ceremony site.
Flooding our bodies with vitamin C tablets in order to stay healthy.
Clearly still healthy and full of energy, but still only the 4th day out of 21.
The grave site of the victims of the 1951 Sancheong-Hamyang Massacre. 705 innocent villagers were killed as part of the army’s 11th division, 9th regiment, 3rd battalion’s efforts to liquidate the Communist guerrillas in Jiri Moutain.
The author participated in the 21 day march for only 4 days and 3 nights.