Veterans for Peace (VFP) members Bruce Gagnon, Ken Jones and Will Griffin are currently in South Korea on a peace tour that includes the Jeu Peace March and joining protests against the recent U.S. and South Korean decision to deploy the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea.
On July 30, 2016, VFP members took a tour of the Kunsan U.S. Air Force Base, located in Gunsan of North Jeolla Province. During the tour, they met and talked with residents living near the base about the impact of the U.S. military base on the surrounding community. VFP member Bruce Gagnon reported on their conversation with the residents (originally posted July 30 on his blog, Organizing Notes).
Talking with the Kunsan Grandpas
By Bruce Gagnon
Yesterday Ken, Will and I took the train from Pyeongtaek, South Korea two hours south for a day-long tour of the perimeter of the US Kunsan Air Force Base. Our guide and translator drove us from one end of the base to the other. Near the end of the visit we came upon a two-story watch tower near the base runway and discovered five village grandpas playing a card game inside the open air upper space.
After introducing ourselves as members of Veterans For Peace, we requested if we could ask them a few questions about the base and film their responses. They eagerly agreed and began by telling us we had come on the wrong day (a weekend). If we’d come during the week the noise from the US war planes would be overwhelming they said. Pointing to their ears, they told us they were all hard of hearing having spent their lives living next door to the busy airfield.
The grandpas told us many villagers with access to more money had already moved away, but they had no resources to move anywhere else. Due to the current base expansion, new weapons storage bunkers are soon expected to be built very close to their living areas, which would force them to move as well.
We learned that this whole area had once been a beach community, but the military had filled in much of the land to build the base right along the ocean. They pointed to a large old tree next to their cement bird’s nest that we were perched in and said the tree was 500 years old – a symbol of the long history of their once proud village. Now they are being cast aside like fallen autumn leaves.
In response to a question we asked, the grandpas told us they were not happy with the noise or having to move. But there is nothing we can do about it, they declared. Between the power of the US military, and the servile South Korean government, they stood no chance. How could they defend themselves up against such forces?
This morning we will take a three-hour bus ride back to Seoul Kimpo airport where we will catch a plane to Jeju Island. Then for the next five days, we will join the annual Gangjeong village peace walk around the beautiful ‘Island of Peace.’ There we will walk with other grandmas and grandpas from a similar 500-year old fishing and farming community that has been torn apart so that a Navy base could be built to host US warships that will come into the region as part of the aggressive US ‘pivot’ to encircle China. Some of those warships, Aegis destroyers, will have been built in my hometown of Bath, Maine.
Real lives are impacted by the Obama-Hillary Clinton created ‘pivot’ into the Asia-Pacific, and if war ever comes as a result of this steroidal military expansion, then even more lives, many more lives, will hang in the balance.
To read original post, click here.
To see more on the Veterans For Peace delegation’s tour of the Kunsan U.S. Air Force Base, click on video clips below.
Bruce Gagnon is a member of Veterans For Peace and the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He also maintains his own blog called Organizing Notes and contributes as a writer for ZoominKorea.
Currently, the Veterans For Peace delegation is on Jeju Island participating in the Jeju Peace March.
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