Korea: Houses demolished in Korean resistance to US base expansion


For over four years, the Korean villages of Daechuri and Doduri have defiantly resisted the seizure of their homes and fields for the expansion of an United States Army base. On September 13 at dawn, 22,000 riot police invaded and occupied the villages. Police demolition equipment managed to wipe out 68 empty houses. But the vastly outnumbered villagers and supporters put up a fierce resistance, and managed to stop the cops from destroying many of the houses that the Ministry of Defense had threatened to destroy.

Fifty years ago these communities lost their land as 2 foreign forces (first Japanese, then American) built and expanded the base. Now the US military wants to push them off their land again. The US base expansion is part of an aggressive transformation http://www.antigizi.or.kr/english/nobasept.htm of US global military strategy. The main mission of the US Forces in Korea will be not just to defend against North Korea, but to contain China and act as a rapid deployment force for the entire Asian-Pacific region. Some villagers, weary of the struggle against the base expansion, have accepted the compensation money and left. Others were intimidated into fleeing. But many farmers and their families have refused to surrender their homes and livelihood to a foreign power’s imperial ambitions. They have been joined by supporters from around Korea. Abandoned houses have been transformed into an art museum, homes for new residents, a community-run restaurant, a broadcast center producing a nightly news report http://www.newscham.net/news/list.php?board=deulsori and offices for residents’ committees and supporting organizations.

Artists and residents have covered the walls of empty and squatted houses with murals and anti-base graffiti.
Outraged and disillusioned with the corrupt bureaucracy of an indifferent government, in February, farmers marched to city hall and burned their “residency cards”, renounced their Korean citizenship and declared Daechuri an autonomous region. They have since been organizing the daily life and the defense of their land and community through general councils, independently of the local government.
But in March, police and army launched a series of violent attacks on the villages, ripping up rice fields and destroying their irrigation system. In May a massive police attack http://www.saveptfarmers.org/may4and5.html managed to cut off villagers’ access to their rice fields and demolished their elementary school and community center.

In the most recent attack, thousands of riot police and 450 contracted construction workers and thugs invaded and occupied the villages at dawn. The Ministry of Defense had promised to only destroy empty houses. But several squatted and renovated houses, as well as one long-term resident’s house, were knocked down. A backhoe also destroyed a farming warehouse with expensive farming equipment inside.
Children from Daechuri were unable to go to school the day of the attack, because of the police lockdown of the the roads leading to town. In the village, police controls kept elderly residents from entering their homes and fields, and 10 residents received minor injuries at the hands of the police and their contractors. Some of the contractors threw insults (“bitch”, etc) at elderly residents who were fighting to stop the demolitions or to reach their homes.
Many outside supporters were kept from entering the village by tight police checkpoints over the past several days, and 21 were arrested this morning trying to enter to defend the village. Yet despite their overwhelming numerical disadvantage and several arrests in Daechuri, villagers and supporters struggled all day to defend the village. The police’s first target in Daechuri was the Human Rights house. Several human rights activists had tied themselves to the lookout tower built by residents on the roof of the building, and residents barricaded the building to keep the cops from coming up. But the police eventually managed to enter, and dragged out and arrested the activists before smashing up the house and all of the beautiful murals that it contained.
But around 40 other people who tied themselves onto the roofs of other buildings kept the police from destroying 13 houses in Daechuri. At one house right at the entrance to town, police stood off for hours with two people sitting on the pointed top of the house’s sloping roof. Elderly villagers hurried to surround the house, and one villager climbed onto the roof with the activists. After several failed attempts to force the two activists down, police promised to let them go free (and then destroy the house) if they came down on their own. But villagers had already learned during previous attacks what a cop’s promise is worth, so they stood their ground and insisted that the police leave. Eventually the police were forced to give up and leave the house standing and activists free.

Although the attack was a heavy blow, especially the overwhelming destruction of houses in the village of Doduri, the villagers have taken their successful defense of some of the houses as a victory. Residents played traditional drum music in the streets after the police finally left, and villagers have reaffirmed their resistance to the base at the continuing nightly candlelight vigils. As the Ministry of Defense’s October 31 eviction deadline approaches, villagers continue to work in their gardens, organize the defense of their land, and prepare for a major national march in Seoul on September 24. Residents and supporters in Korea are asking for solidarity actions internationally on that day, especially urgent since the threatened deadline is only a month and a half away.