On May 4, 2006 South Korean military troops and riot police officers put up a barbed wire fence along parts of Daechuri and Doduri in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, and began occupying the land. The SK government proclaimed that farming is “prohibited” in the villages of Daechuri and Doduri because they are designated as a special protection area for military facilities.
Residents are now required to go through inspection at checkpoints to enter their village where they have lived for generations. The South Korean government also announced that all residents must move out of their homes by June 30, or face forced eviction.
The two peaceful villages Daechuri and Doduri, Pyeongtaek suddenly became a restricted zone for civilians. Residents are required to present their resident card in order to enter the village and all others are denied access, at will, by the police. The entry restriction is to pave the way for the upcoming construction of the US base expansion, for which the South Korean government is ruthlessly committing violence against its people and denying people’s basic right to stay in and right to enter their own neighborhood.
The US base has brought tremendous tension between the people of Korea and their government. The South Korean military troops and police officers are committing a serious crime against its people by using physical force and violating people’s basic human rights. Thus, the Pyeongtaek people’s community and their peaceful way of life are gravely undermined.
In 1952, the Daechuri and Doduri residents were once more evicted out of their homes in the middle of the night by US military troops that brought bulldozers to build an air force station. At the time, the displaced residents could not bring their belongings nor bring the burial stone of their ancestors (that Koreans consider sacred). But people were determined to live in their hometown so they began building a community in the periphery of the new air force station. It was the seawater that these displaced people converted into a fertile farmland by bringing soil from outside and rehabilitating it with their hand, little by little. The land now produces Korea’s top quality rice. It took Pyeongtaek residents more than 50 years to cultivate the land that they consider as their life.
The government falsely proclaims that the farmers will be adequately compensated if they surrender ownership of their land and move out. What is missing in this equation is the quality of life, that cannot be compensated with money. The farmers who are mostly in their 60s, have built a thriving community in Pyeongtaek. Life outside of Pyeongtaek is unimaginable. In fact, the elderly farmers have nowhere else to go. How is it possible for elderly people to suddenly make a living outside of what they are most familiar with and have so much love for? Who dares place any monetary value on the life that these farmers have created for themselves at all odds. In Doduri, this land grab is even more serious because the farmers here are tenant farmers who cannot even be compensated for the land that they do not own. In fact, they are the people who have incurred high debt to become tenant farmers and have built their homes in this town.
The Korean government cannot compensate for the loss of the Pyeongtaek farmers' quality of life.
On May 4, 2006 South Korean military and riot police officers along with hired thugs destroyed a local elementary school that the residents had built with their hearts and hands more than 50 years ago. Despite poverty, people collected bags of rice to pay for construction supplies and gladly took on hard manual labor to construct the school--all for the love of their children. People wept as they watched their beautiful school demolished into pieces. The demolition signaled a loss of their collective memories of their lives together in a thriving community that they had created for themselves. This was a horrific act of violence committed by the Korean government. This states loudly that the government has every intention to carry out their plan of forced eviction of the Pyeontaek farmers.
So, what is the real reason behind the US military base expansion in Pyeongtaek?
Last January, the foreign ministers of Korea and the US have agreed to the terms of the strategic flexibility of the US Forces in Korea (USFK). This will radically change the characteristic of USFK from defensive to offensive by realigning and transforming them into a swift mobilization force that can be “rapidly” deployed anywhere in the world to intervene in conflicts outside of Korea. Under the Bush administration’s plan of pre-emptive strike the Second Division Infantry stationed near the DMZ border will be transferred to Pyeongtaek in order to contain North Korea and China. By agreeing to the strategic flexibility of the USFK the Korean government is acknowledging that Korea can intervene in conflicts without the consent of the Korean people. This places Korea under a tremendous threat of war.
Therefore, the expansion of the US military base in Pyeongtaek will force Korea to become a training ground for US military troops, thus threatening peace not only in Korea but also in all of Northeast Asia.
The new plan will not only realign USFK but cost $110 billion dollars to strengthen military capability. Ironically, the cost of transfer, clean-up and military build-up is being placed on the Korean government. The money will come from the tax dollars of the Korean people. The military base expansion in Pyeongtaek is not only taking land and housing from the farmers but it is also taking money from the Korean people.
By 2008 the number of USFK will be reduced to 25,000 troops. Primary responsibilities including defense from NK will be shifted to the Korean troops while the operational command will be transferred to the commander of the Korean military. There is talk about eliminating Korean-US Joint Command Office and further reducing or transferring the 8th Army of USFK. As such, the USFK will continue to reduce its size. This would imply that there is no need to expand a US military base whatsoever when existing bases can be used. It is evident that the primary purpose of the expansion in Pyeongtaek is to provide a military base that serves a different purpose (than as agreed to in the Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty). The Pyeongtaek base expansion will be served to increase US military build-up and aggression.
The two issues of strategic flexibility and additional reduction in military troops were not reflected during the review of the agreement at the Assembly. The Assembly did not have any opportunity to review or approve(?). The Korean government failed to present accurate facts; thus, it is necessary to hold a hearing to review the problems of the agreement and to renegotiate the details of the military expansion.
Under these circumstances, KCPT(Pan-S.Korea solution Committee against US base extension in Pyeongtaek) demands that the Korean government re-review and renegotiate the plan. The Korean government must provide accurate facts and review the expansion plan in entirety, as well as withdraw its plans of forced eviction. All problems of the agreement must be resolved, including immediate removal of the barbed wire fence. The government must also make a sincere public apology to the public for committing violence against its people and immediately release all prisoners.
Should the government continue with its plan without coming to a sound resolution, a fierce resistance from the people will be unavoidable.
The Korean government announced that it will begin elevating the expropriated Pyeongtaek land in October. The land is currently not suitable for use by the military. This elevation of soil is expected to be as high as 2 to 3 meters, which means a significant amount of soil must be brought in from nearby mountain or ocean. This is detrimental to the environment.
Despite the clear evidence of problems and opposition from the people, the South Korean government claims that it must proceed with the expansion plan in order to safeguard its alliance with the US. This is a contradiction. When the Roh Moo Hyun administration fails to serve its people and places them under a threat of war, it seeks to maintain foreign relations with another country?
To counter this injustice, KCPT is gearing up for two major events in the near future. On September 24, the fourth major Peace March will be held calling for support from people nationwide and from all sectors. Following this Peace March will be a Day of International Solidarity on October 21.
In order to adequately prepare for another major crack-down from the South Korean government, we urge you to hear the urgency of this matter and to share this story of the resistance of Pyeongtaek farmers with your communities. We must tell the entire world of the injustices of the US government. It is planning a massive military build-up in Korea. Once again, the US war agenda will continue to destroy people’s lives.
In order to understand this struggle we ask that you join the people of Pyeongtaek in Pyeongtaek. It is important that you become an eyewitness to the struggle in the place of struggle. Hearing the stories of resistance directly from the farmers will inspire you.
We know that the military power is overwhelming, but that will not stop us. We must all take part in this struggle to put a stop to this inhumane venture.
Our message of solidarity needs to be delivered not only to the Korean government but also to the US government.
Our message needs to reach the Congress and the mainstream media.
If needed, we will send a delegation from South Korea to the US to carry out this mission.
We hope that all of us can work together strategically in order to place real pressure on the US government to renegotiate this agreement.
As we are fully aware, the US military is occupying communities around the world. It is creating war and causing destruction, death, pollution, illness and grave suffering.
The US needs to stop investing its taxpayers’ hard earned money into building up its war machine. It is about time that taxpayers’ money be spent on education and on serving the needs of the community at large.