Catholic Church in Jeju joins campaign against naval base
The project, launched in 2008, had received much criticism from civil society and the Church. They had been side-lined and the work teams arrived in March, 2011.
The ‘Catholic Solidarity for Peace in Jeju’ group has decided to celebrate one Mass a day until October 10 to block the work of the naval base of Gangjeong on the Korean island of Jeju.
The group formed for, “affirming the value of peace over war, against a government that could bring us back decades,” celebrated the first masson September 30 in the presence of about 500 faithful.
Nuns present at the meeting formed a human chain sitting on plastic chairs to stop the entry of bulldozers to the construction site. They were loaded onto a truck, still seated on the chairs, and sent back to their convent.
The South Korean government plans to build a base for national and U.S. marines on the island, south of the peninsula, in the Strait of Korea. Governed by an autonomous provincial government, the island is famous for its nature and beautiful landscapes.
Demonstrators opposed to the construction of the naval base also want to safeguard the island's ecology and tourism. The government says that the new naval base at a cost of $970 million is necessary for national security.
The project, launched in 2008, had received much criticism from civil society and the Church. They had been side-lined and the work teams arrived in March, 2011. Some stretches of coastline was even blown up to allow a better landing of warships.
The Church and the opposition Democratic Party accuse President Park Geun-hye of wanting to resurrect militarism that characterized the dictatorship of her father, Park Chung-hee. Recently, the government has forced the resignation of a number of ministers and even the Attorney General.
For the first time in 12 years, the army and air force paraded through the streets of Seoul two days ago. They displayed missiles capable of destroying the nuclear power plants of North Korea.
Bishop Peter Kang of Cheju recalled history. "This must be a land of peace, especially in light of the incidents of April 3. Bringing the military back to this place means those who sacrificed their lives for freedom did it in vain," said the prelate, referring to the massacre in Jeju that began on April 3, 1947.
Thousands of people who were part of armed civilians groups opposed to Seoul's dictatorial government were killed till 1954, when South Korea was divided between the military dictatorship and the American presence. The dictatorship was defeated with help of the leadership of the Church and Jeju became a symbol of resistance.
The Church has also launched a campaign for the expulsion of Seoul's secret services, which has been accused of interfering in governance and private lives of citizens.