By Noam Chomsky and Matthew Hoey
There is an island off the coast of South Korea - Jeju island - that is arguably the most idyllic on the planet. It is internationally recognized as the “Island of World Peace” and is home to more UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites than any single geographic location on earth. In the years leading up to the Korean War, it was the scene of virtual genocide, referred to in Korea as the Sasam, April 3 Uprising. One in five residents on the island was killed and 90% of the villages were burned to the ground. These barbaric crimes were committed by the South Korean police and military under a U.S. military mandate to begin what would be known later as the “scorch the earth campaign.” Today Jeju Island is again threatened by joint U.S.-South Korean militarization and aggression.
Island residents and peace activists are resisting energetically, risking their freedom and lives to prevent the construction of a naval base on what many consider to be the most beautiful coastline on the island. This military base is to be home to both U.S. and South Korean naval vessels and a sea-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system. The planned facility would have a capacity for two submarines, 20 large destroyers and up to two aircraft carriers. The purpose of this military facility is to project force towards China and to provide a forward operating installation in the event of a military conflict between the U.S. and China. The location of this base is Gangjeong village, a small farming and fishing village that has reluctantly become the site of an epic battle for peace.
The last thing the world needs is a military confrontation between the U.S. and China. On that dreaded eventuality, there is no need to elaborate. In terms of its implications, what is now taking place on Jeju island counts as one of the most critical struggles against a potentially devastating war in Asia, and the deeply-rooted institutional structures that are driving the world towards even more bitter conflict than is raging in all too many places today.