South Korean democracy crumbles to outside pressure and US Veterans are Denied Access to Return to Korea

March 15, 2012

Yesterday South Korea stopped US veterans, who had served to defend Korea, from entering the country. After 2 days of travel these US citizens and veterans of the US armed forces were left in no-man's-land between Korea and China. These veterans came back to Korea at the request of the people, to support the people of a small island (Jeju) off the South end of Korea. The people here have been struggling for months to protect their culture and their way of life. The people, men and woman, are using their bodies to block giant cranes bent on destruction. At risk are the sacred rocks of Gangjeong, the fresh water springs in the rocks, the coral reefs that support the island's marine fishery and endangered species. The area is linked to three UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites, nine UNESCO Geo-Park and that it is designated a Global Biosphere Reserve. But all this and the life on Jeju island in to be destroyed or put at risk for one more naval base.

As the Mayor of Gangjeong, and the Governor of Jeju, representing their people, plead with the S. Korean government to respect the citizens and stop this disaster, the US pressures the government to build the base. It should be noted that while there have been tensions with North Korea this naval base will be as far from North Korea as is possible in South Korea. It is not to defend South Korea. It is so the US, in subtle saber rattling, can threaten China's coastal waters with a nearby deep water naval base.

Instead of respecting the democratic wishes of the people and their elected representatives, the S. Korean government has shipped 1,700 riot police from the mainland into this little island to suppress the peaceable demonstrations and calls for democracy of the people. What is happening on Jeju is the forsaking of democracy, and the US should sanction Korea for it. What is happening on Jeju is a travesty of justice.

Two US veterans, both members of Veterans For Peace, were asked to come by the people. Elliott Adams and Tarak Kauff responded to the request by traveling for 2 days from New York to Shanghai to Jeju, including 19 hours in the air. But when they got off the plane they were rudely told by the Korean government (not the Jeju government) that they must leave. Tarak Kauff says, “ they were waiting for us, they had our photos as we arrived on the plane.” The veterans were left with little money, just tickets home that would not be good for a week. “This is gratitude. I served in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division defending the people from North Korea, I come back to again defend the people and I am pushed off into no-man's-land,” said Elliott Adams

The Australian Veterans group Stand Fast says “We condemn the South Korean police treatment of protesters knowing that the real criminals are the war mongers and vandals that the police are protecting.”