| Update from Daechuri; Preparations for Massive march September 24|
Residents and supporters in Daechuri enjoyed a short-lived celebration earlier this week. The ultra-conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the US military had decided to completely revise their master plan for base expansion. That wouldn't change the overall shift in US forces (unfortunately), but a revised master plan could mean that Doduri and Daechuri would be spared from displacement. But later that day, the Korean Ministry of Defense rejected the article as groundless. The USFK (US Forces in Korea) also denied any changes in their plans. Still, some activists and residents hope that the USFK really are considering changing the original base expansion plan designed by US military engineers. If they were, they certainly wouldn't want the news to get out, to avoid encouraging residents and supporters. Hopefully this article is a sign the USFK and the Korean government are seriously weighing the costs of pushing through the base expansion as it now stands, and that with enough outside pressure and continued resistance on the ground in Pyeongtaek, they will leave the communities untouched.
In Daechuri and Doduri, resistance continues full force. September 1st marked two-years since dozens of residents were beaten and arrested outside a bogus public hearing set up by the Ministry of Defense. Since their first candlelight vigil to demand freedom for those arrested, they have continued to hold their candlelight vigils every night in the villages. For the second anniversary vigil, the supporters living in the villages presented a song and a "struggle in Pyeongtaek crossword puzzle". Residents and supporters watched the "Sound of the Fields", a community-run program presented every night at the vigil, that shows daily life and resistance in Daechuri and Doduri.
I came to Daechuri for the first time last Sunday. Since then, I have been living in one of many empty houses that have been cleaned and renovated by residents and supporters. Over 20 supporters from around Korea have moved to Daechuri and Doduri and have reclaimed houses that were abandoned by those residents who chose not to stay in the villages. The idea is partly to make it harder for the government to demolish those houses as a first step toward demolishing the entire village. The house where I've been staying is being converted into a "human rights center", with murals and banners around different human rights themes in each room.
The government has announced that the village will be completely destroyed by the end of October. But Daechuri doesn't give the impression of a place under a death sentence, or a village that has accepted its fate. Even though the state has blocked access to their fields and destroyed their greenhouse, residents are planting cabbage and radishes now in their gardens. The cabbage, used to make the Korean dish Kimchi, will be ready to harvest in November.
Last winter, residents declared autonomy and renounced their Korean citizenship. Beyond the powerful symbolic impact, the residents enforce their rejection of the Korean state in some small but very concrete ways. When a Korean military truck wanted to pass through the town one day last week, I saw a few residents lay a blockade across the road and stand in front of the truck. Eventually the soldiers were forced to turn around and leave. The villagers refuse to willingly let the institution that has attacked them, and that wants to destroy them, into their town.
The towns, along with a range of Korean social movements that make up the KCPT, are busy preparing a massive national march in Seoul on September 24. (See below for links to announcements.) The KCPT has called for solidarity actions abroad. In the U.S., the U.S. Pyeongtaek committee is organizing demonstrations, and a number of groups have issued solidarity statements.