Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Vieques of the Pacific: Pyeongtaek, the US Military and Popular Resistance of the Korean People
A Report Back from the International Delegation to South Korea
Tune in to the Friday edition of WBAI's Wake-up Call (99.5 FM in New York, on-line at http://www.wbai.org) for Mario Murillo's special 1-hour report on the Korean people's struggle against the Korea-U.S. FTA and the U.S. military base expansion in Pyeongtaek.
Working as an embedded reporter for WBAI, Mario accompanied an 18-member solidarity delegation sponsored by KAWAN, Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism, that recently traveled to Korea to visit with the struggling farmers in Pyeongtaek, who are resisting the plan of the US military to expand the Camp Humphreys base, thereby displacing them from their land. They also participated in the national general strike against the Free Trade negotiations currently underway between the Korean government and the Bush Administration.
The report on Friday will focus primarily on the military expansion issue, but will tie in the FTA discussions as well. Hear the voices of some of the participants in the delegation, but more importantly, the voices of Korean activists who are fighting against militarism on the Korean peninsula. At a time when most of the U.S. media points to North Korea as the destabilizing force in the region, it may come as a surprise that many people in the South also view the United States as a force for instability and tensions.
Wake Up Call airs Monday through Friday from 6:00 to 9:00am. The report on Korea will air on Friday, December 1st in the second hour of the program, from 7-8:00am.
For those outside of New York City, you can also listen on the internet at -www.wbai.org. Programs are archived online for 30 days.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
DEC. 4 – 8, 2006
Join Us for a Week of Protest in Big Sky Resort, Montana
Beginning Mon., Dec. 4 and 2 PM @ Bozeman City Hall
On the Corner of Rousse and Main St.
PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY
For more information call (718) 335-0419 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. and South Korean governments began FTA negotiations in June, 2006. Now they are in a race to finish at the expense of democratic process and the lives of millions.
JOIN PEASANT, LABOR AND COMMUNITY LEADERS FROM SOUTH KOREA TO PROTEST THE TRADE TALKS AND NEOLIBERAL GLOBALIZATION.
WHAT: From December 4 to 8 delegations of U.S. and Korean protesters will join forces to oppose the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement negotiations, to be held at Big Sky Resort in Montana. Rallies, vigils, marches, direct actions and solidarity events will take place in Big Sky and the near by city of Bozeman. Give us a call NOW to find out how you can get involved and look out for updates with specific times and places in the coming weeks.
WHO: This week of protest is sponsored by; The Korean Alliance Against Korea-US FTA (KoA), a South Korean coalition of 280 organizations AND Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a U.S. coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations endorsed by close to 100 immigrant, people of color, LGBT, farmers’, workers’, women’s, national liberation, anti-war and anti-globalization groups from around the country.
WHY: The Big Sky negotiations are the fifth round of FTA talks between South Korea and the U.S. KoA and KAWAN’s joint protests began during the first round of talks in Washington, DC in June. In July we followed the negotiators to the second round in Seoul, where over a hundred thousand people protested in the streets. The struggle then went to Seattle for the 3rd round and then Jae Ju Island at the southern tip of Korea. In the past months we have applied constant pressure and asserted our opposition. By now negotiators are bemoaning their poor progress and have had to admit publicly that the KorUS will not be concluded in December as they had originally hoped. They are grumpy and tired of protesters, so they are trying stay out of our reach by holding the talks behind closed doors in an upscale ski resort in Montana. MT’s Senator Max Baucus has had the audacity to invite the negotiators to spend their week in luxury, hidden away on a mountain in “his state.” Progressive people in both South Korea and the U.S are outraged at this deliberate attempt to silence the voices of those who will be most negatively impacted by the KorUS FTA. Free trade policies such as this have had devastating effects on the lives of Americans as well as workers in the partner countries. Politicians and big corporations claim Free Trade Agreements will encourage foreign direct investment, create jobs and jump-start economies, but in fact they only support elite classes and the governments they back. NAFTA sent formerly high paying manufacturing jobs to
Mexico, forced Mexican subsistence farmers to the cities, drove wages and working conditions, leading many to risk their lives immigrating to the U.S. South Koreans and U.S. farmers and workers will suffer the same results it the KorUS FTA passes.
The two coalitions, KoA and KAWAN, formed this year in response to the KorUS-FTA, but the main actors; farmers, workers, students and activists, have a shared history of struggle against neoliberialism starting with the anti-WTO protests in Seattle (1999), Cancun (2003) and more recently, Hong Kong (2005).
THE STRUGGLE AGAINTS THE KORUS FTA IS A KEY STRUGGLE IN THE GLOBAL STRUGGLE AGAINST NEOLIBERALISM. JOIN US!!!
What You Can Do to Support
1. Speak to your organization about the struggle and add your name to a list
of endorsing Montana groups that will be released at an opening press
conference and sent to South Korea as a show of solidarity. If your
organization would like to endorse, please email email@example.com.
2. Come out to protests through out the week, particularly to opening and
closing actions in Bozeman on the 4th and 8th. And bring your friends.
(Specific times and locations will be released shortly.)
3. Pass the information around to organizations and allies you know.
4. Make a financial contribution to KAWAN. These weeks of protest to really
expensive and we’re in this for the long haul. Checks should be made out to
“Nodutdol” with “KAWAN donation” in the memo and sent to 53-22
Roosevelt Ave. 2nd Floor, Woodside, NY 11377.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Click on "download" to listen to the clip.
Hundreds of thousands of workers, farmers, students, activists and other progressives hit the streets on November 22, 2006 in major cities across south Korea to protest the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The November delegation participated in the marches and rallies in Seoul.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Christine Ahn, 011-82-10-5846- 8020
Young Choe, 347-885-9226
Sonny Le, 510-919-0790
Americans Protest U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement in Seoul
Seoul, Korea (Nov. 22, 2006)--An American delegation of peace, labor and social justice activists led by Cindy Sheehan is in Seoul to join the nationwide mobilization against the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated. The delegation is joining the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) who has called for a General Strike from all sectors of South Korean society to demand that the Roh government seriously address the needs of workers and peasants.
The delegation of 18 includes trade unionists, students, journalists, and peace activists from the Working Families Party; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union; International Longshore and Warehouse Union; Via Campesina; Gold Star Families for Peace; Code Pink; and Veterans for Peace.
"The neoliberal policies of the Roh administration are a direct attack on the rights of South Korean workers," said Jose Schiffino of the 1.2 million-member AFSCME Union. "The struggle for these rights is the shared responsibility of all trade unionists."
The key concerns of the KCTU are to stop repression against trade union activities, to implement the ILO recommendations, to guarantee basic labor rights for irregular workers, and to repeal the current "Industrial Relations Roadmap Agreement" and replace it with laws that meet international standards.
In South Korea, approximately 60 percent of laborers are irregular workers without basic labor protections, such as the right to assemble and the right to organize. The Roh administration's "Roadmap Agreement" intends to eradicate public services, such as healthcare and education. The U.S.-Korea FTA would further strip the rights of workers and citizens to advance the interests of transnational corporations. As pre-conditions for trade negotiations, the Roh administration has already lowered emission standards on automobiles, eliminated price controls on pharmaceuticals, reduced Korean film screen quotas, and lifted the ban that was instituted on imported U.S. beef due to mad cow disease.
"Like the war in Iraq, the U.S. mid-term elections was also a referendum on free trade agreements," said Christine Ahn of the Korea Policy Institute. "Democratic candidates, especially from states that lost manufacturing jobs, won by campaigning against new free trade agreements modeled after the failed NAFTA."
"Free Trade Agreements impose more hunger, misery and exclusion," said German Bedoya, a peasant farmer from Bogota, Colombia also joining the American delegation. Bedoya, a member of Via Campesina, an international farmers' union, said, "The Colombia-U.S. FTA has impoverished our people and has stolen our national sovereignty for the benefit of enriching transnational corporations. I came to Korea to demonstrate that worker and farmer solidarity doesn't have barriers of distance or language."
Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), a coalition of U.S. based Korean organizations working to stop the passage of the FTA and the expansion of the U.S. military base in Pyongtaek, is the sponsor and organizer of the Korea trip.
Statement of Peace and Solidarity by U.S. Delegation
We are a U.S. delegation of 18 people including students, journalists, and peace activists and members of Working Families Party, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Global Exchange and Gold Star Families for Peace. We came here to Korea to investigate the impact of the U.S. military base expansion on the villagers of Daechuri and Doduri.
On Monday, November 20, we traveled by bus to the village of Daechuri, a farming town adjacent to Camp Humphreys, the U.S. military base in Pyongtaek City. For over three years, the villagers have been resisting the U.S. plans to expand the base by taking over the villagers’ lands. In defending their land, their homes, and school, they have been the victims of brutal police violence and repression. Our delegation was met by over 200 police in riot gear at the checkpoint established since the forced withdrawal of villagers from their homes. Residents can only enter and exit their villages through these military checkpoints by showing their IDs. Visitors are often prohibited from entering the village because the South Korean government wants to prevent information about what is happening from spreading throughout the country and world.
The National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea recently declared the military checkpoints to be illegal and in violation of the human rights of the villagers of Doduri and Daechuri. We call on the people of Korea and the international community to demand the South Korean government respect the recommendations put forth by the Commission and lift the military checkpoints.
We call on the international community to provide ongoing support to the villagers in Daechuri and Doduri through financial, moral and spiritual support. We ask allies of peace and justice to visit Pyongtaek.
Most importantly, we call for an end to the expansion of the U.S. military base Camp Humphreys. The Pyongtaek farmers have been living on these lands for three generations and deserve to stay there. The expansion of the base will in no way enhance the security of the people of the United States or South Korea. On the contrary, at a time when there needs to be a de-escalation in tensions with North Korea, expanding this base is a provocation that will only further fuel the militarization in the region.
We call on the new U.S. Congress to hold investigations into the U.S. military realignment in Korea as outlined in the 2003 Global Posture Review. This realignment, including the authorization of $11 billion for military expansion in South Korea, moves the U.S. military from a defensive to an offensive position and poses a dangerous escalation of tensions. The new Congress should halt the military expansion and reposition U.S. policy to promote peaceful relations with our Asian Pacific neighbors.
We are writing to you all from Pyongtaek prison where Kim Ji-Tae, the leader who organized the village people to organize and protest against the U.S. military expansion in Pyongtaek. Cindy Sheehan, Mario Murrillo, and Jamie Kim are in there with him right now as only 3 people were allowed to visit. As they are in there, we ran to a PC Bang (internet cafe) to send you these words of what has happened so far on our trip.
Last night, we took a 2-hour bus ride from Seoul to the village of Daechuri. For over three years now, the villagers of Daechuri and Doduri have been resisting the eviction of their homes, farmland and school for the expansion of the US military base in Pyongtaek City, Camp Humphreys. For the past year, starting on May 4, the South Korean government has sent in over 20,0000 troops to demolish homes, destroy the elementary school, and with physical violence against the elderly farmer villagers. I met a reporter from Stars and Stripes last night who told me that he was there at the crack of dawn and what he witnessed was "like medieval warfare."
Since the farmers struggle, over 1000 people have been injured and over 800 people arrested.
We arrived by bus in the evening. We were greeted by over 200 police in riot gear lining the check point. There were many press there to also greet us. It appeared that they werent going to let us through as they have been denying entry into the village for outsiders. Only residents of Daechuri are allowed access in and out of the checkpoint.
After some delay, after Cindy stepped out and had a discussion with Reverend Moon in front of the press did the police finally let us in. They probably didnt want a huge spectacle, so we were allowed access. We then crossed the second check point and made our way into the village. We got off the bus and were immediately ushered into a huge barn that had turned into the site where the candlelight vigil was held.
The farmers and elders have been holding candlelight vigils in there for over 820 days.
When I walked in to the room, I was incredibly moved to tears. It seemed my tears couldnt stop flowing. Here these people were who I saw on the internet, in videos, and in images circulated by people who had visited Pyongtaek. None of those images could capture what I felt and saw. Here these people were, the most humble people, mostly farmers and elders, sitting there peacefully. I could see the hardship they had endured but also the resolve to keep the land. It was heartbreaking to see and hear what they had endured, but incredible to witness their determination to fight for what is good right.
Monday, November 20, 2006
The delegation of 18, who is in Korea from November 20 to November 24, includes students, journalists, and peace activists and members of Working Families Party, Veterans for Peace, CodePink, Global Exchange, and Gold Star Families for Peace. They are here to protest the U.S. expansion of its military base in Pyongtaek and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
On Monday, November 20, the delegation traveled by bus to the village of Daechuri, a farming town adjacent to Camp Humphreys, the U.S. military base in Pyongtaek city. The villagers have been resisting relocation for over three years, withstanding brutal violence, repression and property damage by the South Korean government. The delegation was met by over 200 police in riot gear at the checkpoint established since the forced withdrawal of villagers from their homes. Only Daechuri residents with IDs are allowed in and out of the village. Due to the high profile American delegation and visible media presence, the U.S. delegation--after some delay--was allowed to pass through the heavily armed checkpoint.
The U.S. delegation joined over 100 Daechuri villagers, most elderly Korean farmers, for their 820th consecutive candlelight vigil. Since the U.S. base expansion was announced four years ago, many villagers of Daechuri and Doduri of Pyongtaek city have refused to hand over their farmlands and homes to the South Korean government. For over two years, villagers exhausted every legal channel and resisted relocation. The South Korean government sent in over 22,000 troops to erect razor wire fences around the farmland and demolished the majority of schools and homes.
According to Kim Suk Kyung, father of Kim Ji-Tae, the village leader who has been imprisoned for his vocal opposition, "No one has been compensated. If we were asked by the South Korean government to move for the cause of the Korean people, we would have done so, but not for the sake of the U.S. military."
"The U.S. military is out of control," said Cindy Sheehan. "It led to the death of my son in Iraq and it's destroying the lives of these villagers in Pyongtaek. We have to rein in our military, whose role should be to defend American people, not oppress other nations."
Medea Benjamin, founder of Code Pink, a U.S. women's peace organization, after the vigil said, "It's heartbreaking to see how the villagers have suffered because of plans to expand Camp Humphreys Base. If Americans had a chance to see how the expansion of this military base has devastated the lives of so many humble villagers, they would be outraged."
The Korea trip is organized and sponsored by Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism, (KAWAN), a coalition of US based Korean organizations working to stop the passage of the FTA and the expansion of the U.S. military base.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin Leading Delegation to South Korea; U.S. Activists Join South Koreans to Protest U.S. Military Base Expansion and U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement
NEW YORK, Nov. 16 (AScribe Newswire) -- American peace activists Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin are leading a delegation of U.S. peace and social justice activists to South Korea to oppose the expansion of Camp Humphrey, the US military base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea and to protest the proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
The delegation of 18, who will be in Korea from November 20 to November 24, includes members of Working Families Party, Veterans for Peace, Service Employees International Union, CodePink, Global Exchange, and Gold Star Families for Peace. This will be the first trip to Korea for Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, and Benjamin, founder of Global Exchange and CodePink.
They will meet with elderly Korean farmers of Pyongtaek, whose farmland and homes were violently seized by the Korean military to accommodate the expansion of the U.S. military base. For over two years, Korean farmers have exhausted every legal channel and resisted relocation, holding candlelight vigils for 800 nights.
"The U.S. government spends $9 billion dollars a month on overseas military operations," said Cindy Sheehan, "We are traveling to Korea to witness first-hand how U.S. tax dollars are being spent to destroy Korean farm lands, homes, schools and lives."
According to Kisuk Yom, head of the Korean-American coalition leading the U.S. delegation, "There is no democracy for elderly villagers whose farmlands were stolen. The South Korean public, too, has been silenced, yet they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of a future military conflict."
On Nov. 22, the delegation will join the nationwide mobilization against the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. One million Koreans are expected to take to the streets in Seoul. "The proposed FTA will dramatically expand the failed model of NAFTA," says Christine Ahn, policy analyst with the Korea Policy Institute. "We will let the Korean people know what NAFTA has meant for working Americans: factories shutting down and farms falling into foreclosure."
Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism, (KAWAN), a coalition of U.S.-based Korean organizations working to stop the passage of the FTA and the expansion of the U.S. military base, is the sponsor and organizer of the trip. "We hope this delegation will return to the U.S. to tell the American people about the true human cost of the U.S. military expansion in Korea," said Hyukkyo Suh, Executive Director of National Association of Korean Americans. "Korea is a democratic and sovereign nation, and the Korean people want -- as they deserve -- to make decisions that will affect their lives for years to come."
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CONTACTS: Young Choe, 347-885-9226
Sonny Le, 510-919-0790
Christine Ahn, 310-482-9333 or 011-82-10-5846-8020 (in Korea, Nov 20-24)