Americans Join in Protests Against Naval Base in Korea

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Three American activists were denied entry to Jeju Island, Thursday, days after two international activists, including a Nobel Peace Prize-nominee, were detained and then deported after trying to break into the construction site of a naval base.

The three from the U.S. Veterans for Peace, whose names were not revealed, were trying to go to Gangjeong Village where the 450,000 square-meter naval base is being built, according to Canadian activist Catherine Christie.

Christie, also a minister and consultant of The National Council of Churches in Korea, told The Korea Times that many of the international participants in the protest are anti-nuclear and anti-military activists.

She said some of them are part of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space which has hosted international conferences on Jeju.

These international activists believe the Jeju base, if completed, will only serve the best interests of the United States as its military seeks a strong presence in East Asia to counter China. They are concerned about possible mounting U.S.-China rivalry in the region.

Three different groups, including the international pro-peace and anti-military activists, are involved in the anti-naval base campaign with different motivation.

Residents of Gangjeong Village claim a procedural flaw, saying there was no hearing where all of them were invited to express their opinions before the government pushed for the project to commence. The Ministry of National Defense denies this.

Liberal and progressive political parties are playing the anti-base card as the April National Assembly elections are fast approaching.

Angie Zelter, who was deported Thursday, was one of the participants in the latest international conference hosted by the global network in February.

The 61-year-old British activist, who was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, stayed there until she was detained for her role in the protest.

Zelter illegally entered the Gureombi rock plateau, a lava formation formed millions of years ago, where the naval base construction is underway, through the seawall from Gangjeong’s port, Monday.

“Angie is an activist and has been involved in many protests in foreign countries before. So she would have not been surprised by the deportation,” Christie said. “But the other one (Benjamin Monnet) is sad, because he had been in Gangjeong Village for nine months after the film festival there last year.”

Monnet, 33, a French activist, was detained, along with Zelter, Wednesday for illegally entering the site. He was also deported Thursday.

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