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saveptfarmers   pm.1:50, Tuesday ( 2841hit )
BBC: "Eviction Village: a Farmer's Tale"

From BBC. February 27, 2007.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6389553.stm
(see the link for more photos)


A village near Pyeongtaek in South Korea has become subject to an eviction order to allow for an expansion of the neighbouring US army base, Camp Humphreys.

The government has offered compensation to the villagers of Daechuri - mostly farmers in their 60s and 70s - many of whom have accepted the offer and left the village.

However, there are those who have refused to leave their homes, saying that the compensation is not enough and their livelihoods are at stake.

An elderly farmer tells the story of the village's struggle for survival in an area that has been home to foreign troops since Japanese colonial rule.

KIM IN-SOON, 72

Kim In-soon: I feel hurt and betrayed

I was born and raised in the village of Daechuri and I spent all my life here.

I have a little bit of land, but I am too old and frail to work on it. A fellow farmer rented it from me and the money helped me to get by.

When I first heard that they were going to expand the US military base, my head started to hurt and I got very sick. I couldn't imagine living outside this village.

I am not a very social person and this life is all I know. My children live away from me and I can't work due to my age and poor health. I used to depend on the tenant who was working on my farm land.

But they took that land away. It has been empty and barren for the past year. With no money coming in, I had to rely on allowances from my children.

It's not just me. Everyone in the village is struggling to survive without land. We try to help each other, but it has been a very difficult year.

We have been fighting for several years to save our village and we had hope. But after I heard the result of the latest negotiations with the government, I was shocked.

We must move out of the village no matter what. The news made me lose my sleep and I started to get headaches. I went to the hospital and the doctor told me that I was overstressed.

My neighbour and friend told me that she is not going to move with the rest of us to the resettlement area because her health is very poor and she will go to live with her daughter in the city. I have to say goodbye to my land, my home and my friends.

The government tells us that they will help us resettle, but I don't believe them. Last month, we all went to the place where they are going to build us new homes.

It's barren and empty. It looks very depressing. And there won't be a health centre. And before that's built, they plan to put us in a temporary accommodation.

History of evictions

This is the third time our village is being evicted. My family first lost their land during the Japanese colonial rule. The Japanese took it to build military facilities.

The second time was during the Korean war when the original US base was built.

We had no choice but to move out - our farm land was literally next to the military runways. It was awkward and noisy.

I was only 17 years old. I was living with my parents, my brother, his wife and our younger siblings.

Back then, the men had to go to the army for military service so only the women stayed in the village. We couldn't even fight to protect our land.

They set fire to our house. People packed their belongings and moved out. Many elderly died. We received no compensation.

My brother's wife was raped by a US soldier, while my brother was serving in the Korean army. Three other women from the village were raped. One of them still lives here.

In May last year, when the police and military came to barbwire our land away from us, I wanted to die. I couldn't believe they are doing this to us again.

I am in pain when I think what's happening to us. Some people say that our village is worth nothing compared to the value of the land in central Seoul that will be returned to the government once the US military moves here. I find that odd and heartbreaking.

So the land in the city is much more valuable than our livelihood? We turned these tidal flats into rich, arable land with our own hands, to be kicked out again and again. I feel hurt and betrayed. I feel forgotten.

EVICTION FOR US BASE

Dec 2004: The Korean government releases plans to give extra 2,851 acres to the US Army base in Pyeongtaek
Dec 2005: The government approves the seizure of the village of Daechuri
March 2006: Villagers resist two forceful eviction attempts, in which several human rights activist are detained
May 2006: Up to 130 people are reported injured after 13,000 riot police and 3000 troops are deployed against campaigners and farmers
Feb 2007: The government says that villagers have agreed to vacate their homes by 31 March 2007  

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