From 1-6 August, Church groups, including Columban missionaries and Pax Christi members, participated in a march, which started at Gangjeong Village, the site of a new naval base on Jeju. The annual ‘March for Life and Peace’ on Jeju Island in South Korea, involved around 600 participants, with 2,000 turning up at the finale.
“The walk this year was proof of the unquenchable thirst for peace in the hearts of ordinary citizens” said Irish Columban Fr Patrick Cunningham. “If only the groundswell of peace was matched by the political will of our leaders!” he added.
The Gangjeong villagers and church supporters say the naval base threatens peace in the region, being just 300 miles from China, as well as the contamination of water sources and destruction of the environment. The 2,000 villagers are also being swamped by anywhere from 3,000-7,000 navy personnel being based there at any one time. Each day of the march villagers trucked out food to the walkers, who wore distinctive yellow shirts and sang during the journey.
Meanwhile, the Korean Catholic Church is continuing its protests against the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a US-made anti-missile system on the peninsula designed to ward off North Korean attacks. Church groups will say Mass outside the Seongju county office every Saturday from July 30-August 20.
Seongju, in North Gyeongsang Province, is an area allocated for missile deployment. Fr Kwon Oh-gwan, parish priest of Seonnam Church, said nobody welcomes this “out-of-the-blue missile deployment” without proper explanation. “We oppose it in favour of peace,” said Fr Kwon. Other special protest Masses are being held nationwide, while Catholics joined a large protest in Seoul, saying the missile system will only inflame tensions with neighbouring North Korea and China.
Ellen Teague is part of the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) team in the United Kingdom.