Thursday, May 19, 2011

No Base Stories of South Korea

Every few months I remind people to visit No Base Stories of Korea, and get updated on the latest in the South Korean people's struggles against militarization, both from their own government and from the United States as well. This post is yet another reminder to go over there and check the blog, which is run by artist and activist Sung Hee Choi.

I recently finished an article where I discussed some of my experiences while I was in South Korea last year on a solidarity research trip. Some of the places which Sung Hee regularly provides updates about are areas that I visited, where I got to learn in detail about the struggles that took place or are taking place against militarism. As I wrote in my article, one of the things which made this trip important was the fact that it wasn't your usual "solidarity trip" where everything is neat and tidy and ready to be wedged into an assume matrix of solidarity formation. There is a formula to how we form solidarity, a simple way of feeling that something has been accomplished, even when there is a nagging doubt that anything has really happened yet. In my article I reduced it to these easy to remember steps.

This is part of it, but this really isn't solidarity in any meaningful way, since it doesn't touch the level of imagination, it doesn't touch the level at which you don't just see yourself tied to that other community through your knowledge of them, but rather something deeper and more intimate. Solidarity in its most potent and powerful form is not about knowing that other people exist, but rather feeling that you are connected in some fundamental way, that you are both moving towards something greater, that a cause binds you together. person from other country, ask them what the problems are in their country, listen intently with your face signifying deep thought or deep disgust. Repeat with roles reversed, and solidarity has been accomplished!

That is the frustration of all solidarity work. The dilemmia of how you can get distinct communities to actually identify themselves in such a way.

Below are some recent articles from the No Base Stories of Korea Blog.


Posted on : May.16,2011 13:41 KST
Members of anti-war organizations carry out a protest in front of the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan, Seoul, on Sunday, marking International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.

The conscientious objectors lay on the ground to write out the word “peace.”
The South Korean chapter of Amnesty International asked for adoption of alternative service for conscientious objectors in a statement that day, saying that some 950 conscientious objectors to military service are in prison in South Korea.

Baek Jong-keon, a Jehovah Witness and lawyer indicted for refusing to serve in the military filed a petition with a court against the Military Service Law that puts conscientious objectors behind bars on May 9. Under the law, those who refuse military service without legitimate causes are sentenced to imprisonment of up to three years.

International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, organized by War Resisters’ International (WRI) and its affiliated organizations, is observed around the world on May 15. (Photo by Shin So-young) 

Please direct questions or comments to []


USFK Tyranny in Pyeongtaek; Entertainment businesses subject to armed crackdowns by US military police

Posted on : 2011-05-11

It has emerged that United States Forces Korea (USFK) in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, is effectively exercising “the right to crack down on and punish” foreigner-only entertainment businesses.

USFK is exercising thorough control in the fields of health, hygiene and public order. This includes entry by armed US military police into entertainment establishments and demands that employees present proof of identity.

Based on crackdowns, USFK is indiscriminately declaring “off limits” measures that effectively amount to suspension of business. According to entertainment businesses, 33 out of 40 establishments have been declared off limits or received warnings in the last five years.
Crackdowns by armed US military police

News of crackdowns was first revealed by the Kyunghyang Shinmun on May 10, after the newspaper acquired “an official document sent by the commander of ‘Base X’ of the Unites States Air Force in Pyeongtaek to the owner of a nearby entertainment business, by the name of Choe.”

The document states that USFK declared Choe’s business “off limits” to USFK personnel twice: once in June 2009 and once on January 21 this year. The reason stated for this was that the establishment allowed “bar fines” (female employees who receive alcohol from USFK personnel) and employed foreign workers in possession of “E-6” (entertainment) visas.

USFK stated in the documents that [a foreign female employee at the establishment] had refused to present her ID when requested to do so by patrolling USFK military police personnel, and that, having considered the circumstances, USFK had concluded that the establishment was in violation of the agreement not to employ Filipino women. This, the document said, was USFK’s reason for declaring the bar “indefinitely” off-limits.

This is not an isolated case. According to Pyeongtaek people’s Solidarity for participation and Autonomy (PPSPA) and the Songtan branch of the Korea Foreigner Tourist Association, the US military has declared 33 out of 40 US military-only establishments off limits since 2005.

From 1992, USFK controlled such businesses arbitrarily, according to a type of agreement reached with Pyeongtaek city authorities. When official documents upon which “off limits” measures were based were made public and caused a scandal in 2005 (as reported on the front page of the Kyunghyang Shinmun on March 31, 2005), this agreement was abolished.

Regulations not contained within SOFA

Even since then, however, USFK has been running a system of parallel crackdowns and punishment of businesses close to bases, by communicating regulations and guidelines orally and sending armed military police on patrol.

Under the pretext of protecting its own citizens, USFK has been creating irrational regulations that are not found within the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Korea and the US, and arbitrarily exercising what amounts to a right to carry out crackdowns.

Entertainment establishments have protested, saying, “For businesses that operate exclusively for foreigners, being declared ‘off-limits’ is a punishment equivalent to suspension of business. There are 500 more establishments that would effectively go out of business if US military personnel did not visit them.”

Despite the circumstances, however, Pyeongtaek city authorities are refusing to consider remedial measures or even look into what disadvantages are being incurred by the businesses in question. An association for Korea-US cooperation, created to aid conflict resolution between the two countries and headed jointly by the mayor of Pyeongtaek and the local USFK base commander, is also proving ineffective.

Civic groups including the PPSPA plan to hold a press conference on May 12 in front of the main gate of Base X and call for the off limits measures to be lifted. (News, The Kyunghyang Daily News. May 11, 2011. Reported by Choi In-jin; Translated by Ben Jackson. )


Recent News (May 9 to 13) of the Ministry of National Defense, ROK

NO. 766

Korea and U.S. marines discuss joint operations
May 13, 2011

South Korean and the United States marines showed strong will to counteract against North Korean provocations during tactics discussion held in Baengnyeong Island near the inter-Korean maritime border on Yellow Sea.

Marine officers from South Korea and the U.S. discuss on May 12 military matters regarding joint drills aimed at defending western islands on Yellow Sea during tactics discussion session held on Baengnyeong Island.

Marine officers from South Korea and U.S. held tactics discussion for two days since May 11 and exchanged views toward major matters related to joint military drills and the wartime operational control transfer.

On the Korean side, senior officers, including operations planning officer under the Marine Corps, and on the U.S. side Col. Thomas Ward and Lt. Col. Turner Larry under the U.S. Pacific Marine Corps Command joined the discussion.

Two countries discussed about schedule plan for joint drill on western islands and reviewed overall conditions of soldiers' lodging facilities and terrain at training field that U.S. marines are going to use.

Two agreed to regularly hold tour sessions for U.S. marines coming to South Korea for drills.

In addition, two sides discussed preparations and measures for strengthening joint exercises in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a joint command and control simulation exercise between South Korea and U.S.

"Western islands are strategic locations where North Korea and provoke any time," said a South Korean marine officer who took part in the discussion. "South Korean and U.S. marines will become a role model of defending any military attacks immediately on site with strong joint operations."

Col Ward said that, "It is the first time South Korean and U.S. marines jointly hold tactics discussion on western islands since the end of the [1950-53] Korean War. South Korea and U.S. will cooperate closely so that the North would never make provocations like the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island."


No. 765

Mungyeong will host Military World Games in 2015
2011-05-16 17:24
May 13, 2011

The location for the 6th Military World Games, a multi-sport event for military athletes that is held every four years, has been decided to be held in Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang, in 2015.

The International Military Sports Council (CISM), the event's organizer, held its 66th general meeting at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel on May 12 and made decision to open the event at Mungyeong in 2015. After the decision is made, Col. Kalkaba, the head of CISM, and Kim Il-saeng, the head of the Office of Personnel and Welfare at the South Korea's Defense Ministry, signed a written agreement.

South Korea had submitted it bid to hold the event exclusively at CISM's board meeting in Algeria on March this year. The organizer of the event gave the final approval in Seoul for Mungyeong to be the next venue for the event.

The Defense Ministry received its approval for a bid effort to hold the event from the Finance Ministry on August last year. The Defense Ministry had planned to select six cities, including Mungyeong, in North Gyeongsang, for the event.

The Military World Games, in which only active-duty military personnel can participate, is designed to boost friendship through sports and contribute in building world peace.

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