By Kungsoo Park

It's very difficult to stand up against the chaebol, the large conglomerate companies. In the past decades, such conglomerates have been gaining ever greater power. Through its pro-market reforms, the government has provided much support for their growth. The law even protects big conglomerates from getting prosecuted for abuse of power or corruption. While I understood these realities intellectually, I only began to personally experience the significance of the current situation during the peace action against Samsung C&T.

Gangjeong Style

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Gangjeong Style

Sitting at the gate of the illegal construction site by day

A classy girl who can enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee

A girl whose heart gets fired up when the police arrive

A girl with that kind of unexpected side

I’m a defender

A defender whose sense of justice is as strong as yours

A defender who blocks that illegal construction before the coffee cools

A defender whose heart explodes when the police arrive

That kind of defender

Javier Gárate

During the first two weeks of October (2012), I visited South Korea, invited by the group World Without War to give a training for trainers in nonviolent action and to visit Gangjeong village, on Jeju Island, where people are resisting the construction of a naval base.

It is well known that South Korea is a militarised country, with the protracted conflict with North Korea being a permanent reminder of this militarisation.

For a decade WRI has been cooperating with South Korean antimilitarists. This began in 2001 when South Korean activists asked WRI for support in their work on conscientious objection. At that time there were hundreds of Jehovah's Witness COs in prison for their refusal to military service. In early 2002 political COs started to organise themselves, and WRI played an important role in supporting their work. Initially their CO work came more from a Human Rights perspective but rapidly it took a more antimilitarist approach, with nonviolence being an important identity for them. As nonviolence and antimilitarism took a more prominent role in their work, they started expanding their work beyond CO support. That is how World Without War (2003) came to existence as a group resisting war by nonviolent means.

Olympic sponsor's military construction threatens 'Peace Island'

A demonstration on Saturday 9 June outside the Samsung Store on Tottenham Court Road called for a boycott of Samsung products. Samsung is the main building contractor of the controversial $970 million naval base on Jeju Island, South Korea. Officially designated 'The Island of World Peace', Jeju is home to several UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage sites, and promoted by the South Korean government as 'one of the seven wonders of the world'. The people of Gangjeong village, where construction threatens their way of life, farms and coastline, are mounting a non-violent resitance that's gaining international attention. Samsung and the Korean navy continue to enforce the project despite 94% opposition among the village electorate. Over 500 protestors have been arrested since construction started, many imprisoned, including the village mayor.

Jungmin Choi

On 19 March, massive blasting of the Gureombi rock, the symbol of the campaign against the new naval base in South Korea's Jeju Island, began. There was blasting, of course, before that, but it's different now because while the blasting so far has been of the fields near the Gureombi rock to make the worksite for Caisson, now the blasting is of the Gureombi rock itself. This is the first time the Gureombi rock has been affected since Samsung C&T first pressed ahead with blasting. At the start of this new phase, Gangjeong villagers and peace activists resisted fiercely, but the police had organised protection for Samsung C&T and violently arrested protesters so that Samsung C&T could continue working. The Gangjeong Village Council strongly protested, saying that Samsung is a merchant of death, destroying natural heritage and building a war base, and appealed for various kinds of online and direct action against Samsung. From 17 March, there was a Catholic mass every day to urge the stopping of the blasting, and demanding the release of prisoners, this was in front of the Samsung C&T building and in support of the campaign against the Samsung credit card. In these ways, the nonviolent action aimed at Samsung C&T was designed to make the struggle more of a national issue.

By Angie Zelter

For five years, the Gangjeong villagers on the Island of Jeju, Republic of Korea (ROK/South Korea), have nonviolently and bravely resisted the construction of a naval base on their land. The proposed ROK naval base would cover 50 hectares of prime agricultural land and would be available for unlimited use by the United States (US) navy and military and would be used to host aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and AEGIS warships that are part of the US anti-ballistic missile defence (MD) system. It is also likely that the base would be used in the conflict with China that the US is planning and openly preparing for. The US Space Command have been computer war-gaming a first-strike attack on China (set in the year 2016) and the MD (really missile offence) is a key part of US first-strike strategy. MD systems have also proven to be capable anti-satellite weapons and they are driving a new arms race with Russia and China.

On March 15th 2012, Benjamin Monnet, a dedicated French peace activist who has been active in Gangjeong for 9 months now, was forcibly deported by the Korean Government. An injunction order was issued against him and he was deported within 24 hours despite a legal suite that had been filed immediately. Angie Zelter, a British nuclear disarmament activist and Trident Ploughshares founder was issued with an exit order for her involvement in the same struggle against the naval base despite charges against her that she has not been able to defend in the courts.

Company Snapshot

The Samsung Group is South Korea's largest conglomerate and a global multinational corporation leading several major industries. It is composed of numerous businesses, including Samsung Electronics, the world's largest electronics company, Samsung Heavy Industries, one of the world's biggest shipbuilders and Samsung Engineering & Construction, a major global construction company. These three businesses form the core of Samsung Group and reflect its name — the meaning of the Korean word samsung is "tristar" or "three stars". Samsung Group has a corporate responsibility for South Korea, forming a vital core part of the South Korean economy, accounting for more than 20% of the nation's total exports. The company has a powerful influence on the country's economic development, politics, media and culture. Samsung Group is South Korea's largest company and exporter, the 5th largest transnational corporation in the world. Starting in the 1990s, Samsung became a world leader in memory chip production, and in recent years it has been one of the largest producers of flat-panel displays and mobile phone sets. A few years ago the company was being described as the "new Sony," but it is now facing intensified competition as well as a wide-ranging corruption investigation launched by Korean prosecutors in late 2007.

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