I guess I should share with you the English text of a letter sent by Mr. Kim Chit’ae (Ji Tae), the headman of Taech’uri Village, which is struggling currently against a concerted encroachment by the American military and Korea’s own government. After more than 15 thousands (!) of police, military men and gangster-like types usually hired by the removal companies (철거깡패) invaded the village on May 4th, Mr. Kim went to prison, together with several other resistance leaders. The letter, written in prison and then translated into English, was sent to me by Mrs. Serapina Cha (차미경), head of the Friends of Asia, a NGO involved in the work with “illegal” labour migrants. What is really interesting in this struggle from the viewpoint of the history of ideas, is the way how the concept of “patriotism” is being reconsidered and remade by the resistant peasants. They are no longer any sort of patriots of the South Korean state, which is throwing them from their land – they have burned down their citizen registration cards and officially announced that they would like to have their South Korean citizenship revoked. But they are the patriots of their land, their place – obviously wishing to solidarize with those living around them, and having no wish to see their mountains and fields being turned into a starting grounds for the WWIII. It reminds in some way of Zapatistas, with their attachment to Mayan land and legacy.
Here is the letter:
“The Village Headman’s letter to Korean People
Dear my fellow citizens,
As the headman of the Daechuri village, I apologize to Korean people for being a clamorously controversial problem in the nation.
I have lived here with my old parents to be a farmer for 20 years. I also have been happy with my wife and two sons.
The peaceful life of villagers including my family has been destroyed since in 2003 the news came to us that many of the US military bases in South Korea would be relocated to get together here in Daechuri.
That news was a real shock to us, for the generation of my parents underwent migration forced by the Japanese colonial army and later we were forced to move by the US army. Now, are doomed to leave this place forever for the 3rd time?
Recognizing that what is called the “national project” of the consolidation move of the US base resulted from the unfair and undemocratic relation between Daechuri residents and the Korean government, and between Seoul and Washington, we sent tens of protesting letters to the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Diplomacy and Trade, and US Embassy before the parliamentary ratification in 2004. They did not respond to us. We sometimes received letters of reply merely saying that we must understand that it is “a national project.”
Even though the government just disregarded Daechuri residents, we were not daunted and persisted in struggling against the government. For we knew what the truth was. More and more people began to support us.
The government sometimes pretended that they wanted to have “a dialogue” with residents. At the same moment that they proposed a dialogue with us, they encircled our farm with barbed wires and destroyed Daechu primary school, which also played a role of our community house. That is what they meant by “dialogue”. The Minister of National Defense and the Prime Minister, whoever they may be, frequently had the press conference and then the major newspaper and broadcasting companies just relayed what they said to the mass, as if it had been true.
The government must let people know what is all about the relocation of the US base. There must be nothing left behind the screen. Then, there must be taken a more democratic procedure, whether it may be a poll or a national referendum.
We want more people to visit our homepage ( www.antigizi.or.kr ) to satisfy your curiosity about what is really going on in this small village. We also suggest to the government that it kill and bury us here in our own land rather than having “a dialogue” only to talk about compansation money and the expansion of the US base, which do not interest us at all.
Lastly, we have one thing to say to our fellow citizens. Whether you support or oppose us, we believe, you are all patriots loving this country. Without the passion for the love of our nation, you would just have had an apathy to us. What we do want to say to all of you is that you must think over whether there were sufficient legal grounds for all the processes involved with the move of the US base and over the true nature of more than 600-day-length of candle demonstration. It is not only then before you suppose or oppose us. We will accept and follow the will of Korean people.
We will fight to the last. ”