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jepu | 05.05.2006 12:55 | Anti-militarism | Free Spaces | Repression | World

Korean farmers and supporters defy brutal eviction for U.S. base expansion

May 4th, 2006 at 5:00am, the Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) made its fourth attempt to occupy the villages of Daechuri and Doduri and crush the resistance to U.S. military base expansion. This time, they came with 12,000 riot police, 1,500 plain-clothes hired 'workers', who are notorious, right wing ex-military strike breakers, and 3,000 Korean soldiers and army engineers.

Their goal was to erect barbed wire around the fields and to establish a permanent troop presence at the Daechuri primary school which has been the organizing center for the resisting farmers. With troops stationed at Daechuri, the MND will be able to legally designate the area a "protected military zone". (See savePTfarmers for further information regarding this legal designation.)
The night before the attack, up to 1,000 workers, students and activists gathered with the 200 farmers of Daechuri and Doduri at the primary school, and prepared for the MND's assault. Thousands of South Korean riot police had begun road blocks preventing access to the villages.

Early on the morning of the 4th, police poured into the village from the U.S. army base Camp Humphreys. Approximately 100 activists attempted to hault their advance. The riot police commanders yelled abuses into a megaphone and then shouted for the troops to "move forward, take the area". The police then attacked the activists using their shields as weapons and some drew their batons from their belts. Many activists were injured and bleeding during the riot police's assult on their attempted blockade. The side of one woman's face was bloody and swolen and appeared to be crushed.

The police were entering the village from all sides and the activists were forced onto the primary school grounds.
At that time, several thousdand riot police surrounded the school, trampling the garlic and onion crops. All 1,000 activists, workers and farmers moved to defend the primary school. The police used water cannons to break the blockade and flew helicopters just above the protesters' heads, frigntening and deafening them.
Simultaneously, thousands of other riot police guarded the Korean military engineers, who quickly constructed barbed wire around the fields. The fence is reported to be some 25 kilometers long and 1.8 meters high.

At 9:35 am, thousands of riot police flooded the Daechuri primary school, breaking all lines of resistance. Shooting water cannons, throwing stones, and beating people with shields and batons, they swarmed across the lines of defense and into the elementary school. Civilian corps demolished everythings: gardens, trees, stages, the green-house where the candlelight vigils took place. 150 people went upstairs. While the conflict was happening, many people were arrested despite of being injured. Those people who fell unconscious or were incapacitated from their injuries were ignored by the police. Over 200 people were injured and around 400 people arrested. Soon the police easily occupied the second floor of the elementary school. Special unit police forces entered the primary school to remove the priests and sympathetic politicians who held positions on the roof. Eventually everyone was removed. Using backhoes, the elementary school, the headquarters for the Peace Village and a major symbol of resistance, was demolished.
The MND ordered troops to remain in the village, remove any farmers or activists and protect the barbed wire barrier.

May 5th - In a massive demonstration of solidarity and outrage at Thursday's brutal attack, as many as two thousand people have marched through rice fields past riot police to help the villagers and activists reclaim their town from the occupation of soldiers and police. One observer described the Peace Village, where the elementary school had stood, as resembling "a warzone, full of rubble." Police have continued to arrest people, but some of these attempts have been repelled by protestors. As of 9pm Friday night, the protestors are standing off against the police at the barbed wire barrier. see for updates.

Chronology of events: The farmers of Daechuri and Doduri have long been resisting the Korean government's attempts to force their eviction in order to make way for the expansion of the "Camp Humphreys" (K-6) US Military Base. After years of legal battles, in December 2005, without public input or oversight, the Central Land Expropriation Committee approved the MND's request for imminent domain aquisition of the farming villages. Everyone who remained in their homes was guilty of trespassing on federal property.

On February 7th, 2006 the farmers marched to the local government office, declared that Daechuri and Doduri were autonomous from Korea, renounced their citizenship and burned their residency cards. Currently, Daechuri and Doduri receive no provincial funding and, on official records, have ceased to exist.

On March 6th, 2006, South Korean military riot police began direct attacks on the villages. Barracaded inside the elementary school, rice farmers, elderly residents, and peace activists held out against attacks by Korea's elite, military police force. With tractors as road blocks and human shields chained to the primary school gates, they resisted wave after wave of attacks by hundreds of military riot police. Residents and peace activists suffered beatings and arrests. Ultimately, under intense media scruteny, the police pulled back.

On March 15, under orders of the MND, and with some 1,000 riot police standing by, two backhoes began gutting the rice paddies on the far side of the fields. Thousands more riot police were posted around the periphery of the village, while hundreds blocked street intersections and key access points to the area. The villagers and their supporters immediately surrounded the machines, halting their progress. After some negotiations, the backhoes begin moving again, but instead of continuing their excavation, they began to refill the pits. As the military riot police moved into action, marching around that section of the field, cutting off all access, the protestors inside their perimiter moved to occupy both backhoes. The police began to arrest people and many protestors resisted and were beaten. After a tense standoff, at nightfall, the police left, having been thwarted in their attempt to destroy the fields. Overall, 40 people were arrested and two have yet to stand trial. Many protestors were injured with broken wrists and ankles. Amnesty International has since published a report condemning the March 15th attack.

On April 7th, 2006 the MND returned to the villages with excavation equipment, concrete trucks, some 750 hired thugs and between 5,000 and 6,000 riot police. The main target of their attack was the irrigation system for the rice paddies. While the plain-clothes hired "workers" attacked the protestors, fertile soil from the rice fields was used to fill the water canals. Cement was also poured into some canals. The MND attacked four areas simultaneously, and the villagers were thinly spread out over the vast farmland, however, protestors managed to halt two backhoes. One bulldozer operator, who claimed that he was getting $450 to carry out the destruction, was unable to continue after paint was thrown on his windshield. Close to nightfall, union members from an auto manufacturing plant arrived and helped to fully halt the MND's progress. The riot police and thugs left the village that night, feeling they had accomplished the destruction of the irrigation system. Over the weekend, however, the villagers removed the dirt and concrete and repaired the irrigation system. By the following Friday, water was again flowing to the paddies.

During the last days of April, the Ministry of National Defense offered to hold direct negotiations with the Daechuri and Doduri farmers, however Defense Minister Yoon couldn't be bothered to attend. The MND also demanded that the farmers consent to stop farming and vacate their land. No real negotiations were ever actually intended on the part of the MND; the ministry merely wanted the opportunity to present itself as reasonable to the Korean public. On May 2nd, the ministry of defense declared the talks failed and announced its intent to resume its forcable eviction attempts.

The struggle of the Peace Village of Daechuri lies at the intersection of major connected global issues. Apart from community displacement, other concerns are the detrimental environmental impact of US bases, the violent crimes committed by US troops stationed here, the massive issue of human trafficking and forced prostitution which surrounds the bases, the U.S.'s arrogant and aggressive foreign policy that may derail Korean reunification and destabilize Northeast Asia, the undermining of local economies through Free Trade Agreements, and a variety of other issues of national sovereignty.

Background on the expansion of Camp Humphreys: The expansion of U.S. Army base Camp Humphreys (K-6) is part of the Global Posture Review, following the agenda of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and implemented by the Bush Administration to consolidate its military hegemony over Northeast Asia. Under the relocation pact, the United States is required to hand back in stages 34 military bases spread around the country by 2011. In their stead, it will build two consolidated and modernized bases in Pyongtaek and Osan, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, by 2008.

The Land Partnership Plan (LPP), the final agreement laying the framework for this massive base shuffle on the Korean peninsula, was signed on March 29th, 2002 and was later ratified by the National Assembly. In what was essentially a class action lawsuit, over 1,000 Pyeongtaek residents challenged the passage of the LPP by the National Assembly as unconstitutional and the case went all the way to the Korean Supreme Court, which, on February 22, 2006, declined to even consider that the LPP might be unconstitutional.

General Leon LaPorte, in his speech to the US Senate Appropriations Committee on April 29th, 2003, regarding the US-ROK Land Partnership Plan, says that the LPP was "ratified by the National Assembly in November 2002", and that it "has the full support of the Korean government." However, the LPP does not have the support of the Korean people, and it was developed in "high-level consultations" between the US Military and the Korean Ministry of National Defense.

The Korean people were never consulted in the scripting of the Land Partnership Plan, and the legitimate grievences of the people most affected by the plan have been sidelined and ignored. However, the Korean government is in a double bind, no matter what the people of the peninsula want, because the LPP itself "provides for repercussions should one side fail to meet its commitments" (page 2, Executive Summary Land Partnership Plan).

The struggle of Daechuri is only the first of many farms and communities to be threatened by upcoming military realignment. Besides the expansion of Osan Airforce base and Camp Humphreys, Korean government and business investors have planned a massive development project that connect the two U.S. bases and supplement the influx of people. Named in various contexts an "International Peace City" and an "International Business City", this relatively unknown project will create even more displacement than the military base expansions.

Action: Please, contact your Korean embassy, your local media, and national representatives to bring attention to this urgent struggle.
Contact the South Korean Ministry of National Defense and demand that they halt this brutal attack at or at (82) 02-748-6891. See also You can help with solidarity demonstrations at local Korean embassies or local government buildings, by spreading the word, by contacting the US Congress or, by coming to Daechuri to act as a human rights observer. Check for regular updates

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