Category Archives: social justice

Official Selection – Peace on Earth Film Festival!

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 9.15.03 AM

The Ghosts of Jeju is an “official selection” of the Peace on Earth Film Festival! I am completely overcome….the only festival out of 20 that I applied for that has accepted my film. The Ghosts of Jeju was accepted at the Berkeley Film Festival after a friend in Berkeley recommended it to them.

SIXTH Annual Peace On Earth Film Festival, scheduled for the long weekend of Thursday March 6 – Sunday, March 9, at the Chicago Cultural  Center.

http://peaceonearthfilmfestival.org/

Follow the link above to visit the official webpage.

Thanks to all of you who supported me in the making of the film including everyone who purchased a copy and everyone who attended a public screening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spirit of Gangjeong #2

In this edition of The Spirit of Gangjeong I bring you the latest news from the village: prisoners released from jail, those still in jail, the fraudulent Rep. of Korea national election and subsequent demands by the Catholic priests association for Pres. Park to resign, and the creative new protest taking place in Gangjeong.

Korean Priest Speaks Truth to Power – “Enemy of the State”

Controversial Korean priest

Reverend Park Chang-shin, a Roman Catholic priest in South Korea is being called an “enemy of the state” for remarks he made during a special mass on November 22, calling on President Park Geun-hye to resign.

A little background is necessary. Park Geun-hye is the daughter of the last ruthless dictator to rule S. Korea. Both her father and mother were assassinated. She rose to power through the Korean National Assembly and ran for president in 2012.

It has since come to light that the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) rigged the election which Ms. Park won.

The Catholic priests of S. Korea have called for her to resign.

Priests vs the dictator revHere’s where it gets interesting. Rather than address the allegations of a rigged election, President Park Geun-hye has turned her wrath on casual remarks Fr. Park Chang-shin made at the end of his homily on November 22 when he asked the assembled faithful, “What is North Korea supposed to do if the US and South Korea continue their military drills around disputed territory?” When the congregation replied, “shoot,” Fr. Park said, “of course they’re going to shoot. That was what the Yeonpyeong Island shelling was about.”

Because of this remark, conservative organizations and President Park’s government are lodging complaints that Fr. Park Chang-shin violated the National Security Law with his comments. President Park Geun-hye said, “we will not tolerate behavior that hurts the public’s trust or divides the people.” Accusations of “communist and North sympathizers” that date back to the April 3rd rebellion on Jeju in 1947-48, and subsequent rebellions and protests against the governments in S.Korea are being leveled again against Fr. Park Chang-shin, and the peaceful, non-violent protesters in Gangjeong Village who are opposing the construction of a large naval base to accommodate Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”

That “National Security Law” has been been used to silence protestors and anyone daring to speak about the atrocities committed on Jeju and in the southwestern part of Korea prior to the Korean conflict, and to this day, Korean people fear government reprisal if they speak out against the government. I have found this to be true even with Korean-Americans and Korean nationals living and working in America today. On my tours screening The Ghosts of Jeju, I have met numerous Korean people who have thanked me for bringing to light the truth about their history, but have indicated how fearful THEY still are about speaking out against the government.

One Korean national told me that the Korean CIA has been know to track down Korean dissidents in other countries who disappear without a trace. Others worry about family members back in South Korea who will be persecuted because they speak out.

Back to Fr. Park Shin-Chang’s comments about the North being provoked and intimidated for decades by annual joint U.S. and Republic of Korea military drills off the coast of North Korea, and the massing of tens of thousands of U.S. military forces, missiles, fighter jets, drones on more than 30 bases along the DMZ and throughout South Korea. He is absolutely correct and had the courage to express this FACT which most in South Korea are afraid to do.

My friend, Bruce Gagnon in a recent blog, asked what would the U.S. do if another country staged war games off the East and West Coasts of the United States, and what would the U.S. do if missiles were stationed on Cuba and the Caribbean islands, and drones, and spy planes were flown up and down our borders? America would declare all-out war immediately.

So, how is it that the school-yard bully, America, gets away with doing this to N. Korea? How is it that it is in the interests of freedom, democracy and protecting shipping lanes, the U.S. places missiles, advanced radar, satellite links, and thousands of U.S. troops on over a 1,000 bases to surround China and Russia and it not be considered an act of war?

I stand with Fr. Park and the hundreds of South Korean Catholics, Protestants, and Buddhists who are protesting against the violation of human rights, injustice, and the criminal abuses of a government run by Samsung and the military.

The so-called democratic governments in South Korea and the U.S.A. no longer represent the people so it is up to the people to overturn those tyrannical governments and replace them with governments that reflect the needs and hopes of the people.

That, by the way, is written into our beloved Declaration of Independence.

I am so proud of and indebted to the priests and courageous people of South Korea and Gangjeong Village for being on the front lines against the evils of capitalism, militarism, the violation of human rights, and the destruction of the environment.

Solidarity!

 

Korean Sister Stella Soh Indicted

For the first time in the 200 year Korean Catholic history, a Korean nun has been indicted for her role in the peaceful, non-violent protest against the construction of the naval base on Jeju Island that will accommodate the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”

Korean sistersToday, many sisters from Jeju and the mainland came to witness the trial of Sister Stella Soh who has been going to Gangjeong Village to protest whenever she has time and money.

Catholic priests and nuns from Jeju and the mainland have been protesting daily for seven years along with the people of Gangjeong Village and activists from around the world.

I had the privilege and honor to meet Sister Stella while I was there in September of 2012. We had been seated together for dinner on the evening before Sister Stella would return home to Seoul when she asked if I would interview her. With darkness approaching, she positioned herself in front of a fire pit and let it rip without me even asking her a question.

This interview appears in my documentary The Ghosts of Jeju and has been seen now by hundreds of people in the U.S. and in more than a dozen countries around the world. Sister Stella’s sincerity, honesty, and blunt remarks about U.S. imperialism have moved all who have seen the film.

She will undoubtedly be fined a large amount of money as have the more than 600 peace activists who have already been arrested, and quite possibly she will serve time in jail.

Here is that interview again.

Who is the Evil One on the Korean Peninsula?

dprk-for-minDeputy Foreign Minister of North Korea, Park Gilyeon gave a speech at the United Nations this week that Neo-Cons, warmongers, and the United States government will ridicule just as they did when the new president of Iran held out an olive branch last week. They will say that it is just a propaganda stunt and disingenuous. The U.S. has used that tagline against everyone that opposes it…forever!

Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, in his speech at the United Nations, focused on respecting the rights of Mother Earth and said that the rights of Mother Earth in the 21st Century will be more important that human rights.

Pres. Morales, said “the origin of this crisis (Climate) is the exaggerated accumulation of capital in far too few hands. It is the permanent removal of natural resources and the commercialization of Mother Earth. The origins come from the system and an economic model of Capitalism. If we don’t share the truth of this crisis with one another nor the international community, we will disseminate a lie to our people whom expect more from their presidents, governments and these kinds of forums.”

Not a word from Obama about protecting Mother Earth, global warming, or climate change.

And prior to speaking at the United Nations, President Morales said in a press conference in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, “I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity.”

Morales has filed a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity wherein he decries the US for its ‘intimidation tactics’ and ‘fear-mongering’ after the Venezuelan presidential jet was blocked from entering US airspace.

As if this US bashing wasn’t enough, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil castigated the U.S. for violating Brazil’s sovereignty with what she called a “grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties.” She was referring the the NSA spying on governments and people in her country and the world.

In contrast, President Barack Obama gave an embarrassing, hostile speech filled with lies and innuendo. (David Swanson http://warisacrime.org/content/top-45-lies-obamas-speech-un). Nothing new for the United States to lie and continuously abuse the United Nations. It has been going on for more than 60 years!

But, back to what North Korea’s, Park Gilyeon had to say. First, he said the UN is being abused by high-handedness and arbitrariness where infringement of sovereignty, interference into internal affairs and regime change continue to go unabated under the pretexts of “non-proliferation and human rights protection. Wonder who he’s referring to? Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Columbia, etc etc etc

Second, he stated that it is the unanimous demand of the international society to completely eliminate all nuclear weapons and to build a nuclear weapon free world through disarmament. Again, no surprise here who wants it both ways. Holding that “BOMB” over everyone’s head is the most egregious act of terrorism ever.

Third, he said despite international efforts for human rights protection and promotion, high-handedness and double standards are becoming ever more undisguised in the UN human rights fora, targeting developing countries selectively as before. I wonder, who could he be referring to with this swipe?

Fourth, he suggested that the UN General Assembly (not the Security Council) should be empowered to have the final say as it represents the general will of the entire membership and UN Security Council resolutions affecting peace and security such as sanctions and use of force should be made effective only under the authority and approval of the UN General Assembly. “The instances of the UN Security Council being abused by a certain state as a tool of its strategic interests should never go unchallenged.” Hmmmmmmm Can’t imagine which state that might be.

Continuing in the same vein, he said “The UN Security Council reform which is the key component of UN reform should be undertaken on the basis of principles of ensuring accountability, transparency and impartiality in its activities and ensuring full representation of developing countries in its composition.” And, why not?

Fifth, he states emphatically, “nothing is more precious than a stable and peaceful environment for the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and the Korean people….as the general objective of the government.” What? They want peace and stability and not war?

Sixth, “60 years have passed since the end of the ….3-year-long war and the singing of the Armistice Agreement….Yet, a mechanism that guarantees peace fails to be in place, as a result of which the unstable situation neither of war nor peace continues on the Korean peninsula.” This is because the U.S., not Russia and China wanted it so. Only the USA did not remove its forces after the Armistice as did both Russia and China.

Then he blasts the U.S. directly and unequivocably…”With an aim of militarily dominating the northeast Asia with the Korean peninsula as a stepping stone, the United States, having designated the DPRK as its first attack target, beefs up its military presence in South Korea and its vicinity and on the other hand, stages a series of war exercises against the DPRK every year with massive builds up of hundreds of thousands of troops and modern military equipment, thus aggravating confrontation and tension without letup.” He must be talking about Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” committing 60% of America’s naval might to the region….not a secret operation, but a bold pronouncement. (The Ghosts of Jeju)

Mr. Park, reminds us that “The United Nations Command,”  is the illegal manipulation and bullying of the U.S. and has nothing to do with the United Nations, and that “UN Command” claimed by the U.S. is the outdated legacy of the Korean War and continues to serve the U.S. military strategy by abusing the name of the United Nations even today.

He then moves in with the knockout punch when he states, “the repeated vicious cycle of mounting tension on the Korean peninsula has its roots in the hostile policy of the U.S. on the DPRK. He goes on to say, “the United States designated the DPRK…as its enemy from the very first day of its foundation and has been refusing to recognize its sovereignty and imposing all sorts of sanctions, pressures and military threats on the DPRK for more than a half a century. The only way to ensure lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula is to bring the U.S. hostile policy to and end.” AMEN to that!

We don’t see Russia or China, Iran or N. Korea staging war games off Manhattan, L.A. and in the Gulf of Mexico. We don’t see anyone placing missiles and radar installations on our borders. Why is it that America’s strategic military efforts always seem to be on other sovereign nations’ borders?

But Park concludes with a plea for a peace mechanism dismantling the “UN Command” and the lifting of all sanctions and military threats without delay, and for the reunification of the country.” That’s precisely what the Korean people….I say, people want! Unlike the puppet S. Korean government which is controlled and held hostage by the USA. But, the people want unification and peace.

Was any of this reported in the American media? Think again! These are hardly threatening words coming from a rogue state threatening the security of the United States. In contrast, Obama continues to threaten anyone who doesn’t go along. He threatens with drones and his own personal “kill list.” He threatens with over 1,000 bases in more than 130 countries.  He threatens with sanctions and military threats everywhere on the planet.

Here at home, in “the land of the free” he imprisons whistle blowers like Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, and hunts down others like Julian Assange and Eward Snowden, even trying to intimidate China and Russia in the process. Furthermore, he extends the Patriot Act and the NDAA whereby he can detain anyone indefinitely without charges for protesting the illegal and immoral behavior of his administration, and he funds and empowers the militarization of local law enforcement to beat down popular uprisings like Occupy.

As if this isn’t enough to prove who is the “evil” in the world, he refuses to shut down Guantanamo and approves of torture and rendition for suspected “terrorists.”

President Morales put his finger on the root cause of all the problems facing human existence: “the exaggerated accumulation of capital in far too few hands. It is the permanent removal of natural resources and the commercialization of Mother Earth. The origins come from the system and an economic model of Capitalism.”

Capitalism, the military industrial complex, and a government of puppets bought and paid for by big money and large corporate interests. Far from being “exceptional,” the defender of freedom and human rights, America today looks more like fascism than a force for good in the world.

And as all of this plays out in the United Nations, this corrupt government is shut down and threatening to default on its debt payments which will throw the entire global economy into chaos. But fear not! Essential services like the War Department are exempt.

What an example of democracy, freedom, and exceptionalism!

 

 

 

 

The Ghosts of Jeju – Update

Disc_TemplatesPeople the world over like The Ghosts of Jeju, yet 10 of 13 film festivals have rejected it. Currently, only the Berkeley Film Festival and the Portland, Maine Film Festival have accepted it.

To date, the film has been screened in several states, and over a dozen countries, all with wonderful reviews. Screenings are now being organized in Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Portland, OR, and Seattle where I will present the film. Other screenings are in the planning stages for Charlottesville, VA, Chicago, and Daytona Beach, Fl.

So, while mainstream outlets have shown no interest in the documentary, peace and justice organizations and veterans groups are spreading it far and wide.

006 Fr. Mun et al main gateThe latest news from Jeju indicates that construction of the base continues at a frantic pace, and construction of a new U.S. Naval Operations Headquarters in Busan is underway. Without fail, the activists and Catholic priests and nuns block the gates seven days a week and where Catholic mass is celebrated daily at 11 am.

Three activists are still serving lengthy jail sentences among them Professor Yang, the noted Korean film critic who was visited by Oliver Stone when he visited Jeju in August.

My plea in The Ghosts of Jeju was that with knowledge comes responsibility, and the least all of us can do is to amplify their voices. In addition to letter-writing, sending donations to Gangjeong Village, and going there in person, one of the best ways is to use The Ghosts of Jeju to tell their story.

003 Tetrapods crane wallThe Ghosts of jeju will not stop the construction of this base which will destroy Gangjeong, a 400 yr old farming and fishing village, but perhaps it is playing a small role in opposing the military advance of the United States and the march towards full-spectrum dominance of the planet.

Gangjeong Village Video Documentarian Jailed

Dungree-1Park Sung-Soo has been documenting the daily struggle in Gangjeong Village since the summer of 2011. He was accused of trespassing when he entered the navy base complex to protest the harassment of two young women reporters with sexual remarks by the base security personnel.

The two young women reporters appealed the incident to the Korean Human Rights Committee, but their case was dismissed.

Dungree

Park Sung-Soo, AKA Dungree, was not able to pay his fine amounting to $1500 U.S. dollars, so he decided to serve out his fine in jail for 28 days. Dungree is resolute in not wanting anyone to pay his fine. He is willing to bear the sufferings he will encounter for the month in prison.

Dungree is a victim of the new government’s strategy to oppress people with  fines and to put down the protest against the illegal construction of the base.

Since the beginning of the struggle in Gangjeong Village in 2007 to February 2013, there have been upwards of 700 arrests with 500 indictments. 22 activists have been imprisoned. All have been released with the exception of Prof. Yang Yoon-mo who has been sentenced to 18 months, this being the fourth time he has been jailed. Prof. Yang agreed to end his 52 day old hunger strike on March 24, the third since his protest began.

The average fine against the activists has been approximately $3,000 U.S. dollars, and some have had fines as high as $9,000 U.S. dollars bringing the total amount of fines to $450,000 U.S. dollars. But, that’s not all. The total compensation fee for “damages” is approximately $290,000 U.S. dollars.

All of the activists are willing to go to jail because they cannot afford the fines.

There is no way to sugar coat these gross violations of human rights and the total disregard and disdain for the civil rights of these people who are fighting for self-determination, a transparent and open democratic process, justice, peace, and the survival of their culture, not to mention their livelihoods.

To blame for this most recent displacement of indigenous people, the violation of human rights, the destruction of the environment, the beating of war drums, and the escalation of tensions around the world is the government of the U.S., the U.S. war department, and the military industrial complex.

Meanwhile, the Village is protesting the navy’s military residential housing project which will effectively obliterate this 400 year old village with accommodations for 8,000 military personnel.  This base will require maintenance facilities, an airport, radar, fuel tanks, bars, restaurants, shops, and brothels, and probably missile silos.

What is happening on Jeju Island, and in so many other places around the world, are crimes against humanity.

America! Now they are coming for us! Not only is the #1 U.S. export weapons and “security,” but now the corporations are fast at work to get us to pay for their lust for power and profits. They want (Congress will do their bidding) to pay for all of it on the backs of the middle class and the poor.

Every state in this country owes thousands of jobs to the corporations who produce the weapons and supplies of war. Because of this, there is hardly a person in Congress who will oppose their lust for more and more and more. They threaten to close down their factories and move if Congress doesn’t keep increasing the war budget that feeds the military industrial complex.

Just a cursory glance across this land reveals their ugly job-creating lies from coast to coast, and from border to border: tar-sands, Keystone pipeline, the East-West Highway in Maine, the proposed LNG tank in Searsport, Maine, hyrdo-fracking wherever they can find gas. They are stealing our own precious resources like water and selling them for profit.

Meanwhile our states are broke and can no longer maintain critical infrastructure; provide quality education; and protect the social safety net, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

There is only one answer to this suicidal march: more than 60% of the discretionary spending of the U.S. (our taxes) go to the military aka the war department. If one includes veteran’s benefits and NASA, the percentage is much higher. Bush’s wars will cost us more than $4 TRILLION. There are more than 800 U.S. military “bases” in every corner of the globe……supposedly for national security. Read: the interest of the corporations who extract resources and exploit other nations.

The Villagers of Gangjeong along with the Catholic Bishop of Jeju, Bishop Kang, have the answer: “Peace is the way. No Naval Base on the Island of Peace.” It is the moral obligation of every human being to oppose war and work for peace and justice in the world.

For those who are not able to travel to Jeju to support this struggle, you can send donations to www.savejejunow.org to help pay the fines and to support the activists who represent us in this global struggle against the U.S. imperial march towards domination of the world by force.

Jesuit Activists Protest in Gangjeong Village

Many priests, nuns, ministers, and Buddhist monks regularly travel to Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island to protest the construction of the massive naval base that is destroying the village, the pristine ecosystem, and contributing to the military expansion of the United States, not to mention raising the already high tensions of the region.

Among the most regular protestors are three Jesuits who have made direct action their priestly ministry. All have been arrested and jailed for obstructing construction of the base. I spent many hours each day chatting with them and filming their encounters with the Korean police as many as ten times every day.

I taped an interview with the three one day during lunch in front of the gates. Their comments were inspirational, but the final couple of minutes are hilarious. Enjoy meeting my friends and brothers in this 5:50 clip.

Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border”

Pretty much overlooked in the U.S. and labeled as “controversial” and “anti-American,” Oliver Stone’s documentary is refreshing. At a time when the U.S. considers any country that goes against its will an “enemy,” Stone reveals a totally different picture. I would strongly and enthusiastically encourage everyone to watch the entire documentary.

His journey began with his desire to discover the social, political and economic movements in South America. His interviews with the following democratically elected leaders is eye-opening and inspiring: Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez.  Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Kristina Kirchner in Argentina, Lula De Silva in Brazil, and Raul Castro in Cuba. All of these leaders have implemented reforms that have angered the United States, which for over one hundred years has destabilized, dominated and extracted the resources of their countries.

Following his own political ideology focusing on socialist reform, Chavez implemented a new constitution, participatory democracy, increased government funding of health care, education, and agriculture, land reform, as well as the nationalization of several key industries, especially oil. Any surprise all of this made him a target of the American media and an enemy of the U.S.?
Chavez was elected Venezuela’s president four times with overwhelming majorities. He has alined himself with all of the above governments and leaders who are considered “enemies” of the United States. All of these democratically elected leaders describe their policies as anti-imperialist, and critical of the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. version of predatory capitalism.

Chavez has been a leader in the region supporting Latin American and Caribbean cooperation, the pan-regional Union of South American Nations, the Bolivian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South, and a regional television network.

If you go to the link below, you can see excerpts from South of the Border. Given America’s track record for intervening in sovereign countries all over the planet, the movements in South America are encouraging, enlightening, and give hope there is a way to end the U.S. imperial march to dominate the world.

http://www.youtube.com/southoftheborderdoc

Up Close and Personal with Sr. Stella in Gangjeong Village

One evening at dinner, I sat next to Sr. Stella, a Korean missionary sister with a great sense of humor and a good command of the English language. After dinner and a delightful conversation, Sr. Stella asked, “so why not interview me. I want to tell Obama and the American people something.”

How could I refuse? Sitting next to the 20 ft barbed wire topped fence of the base, with the light fading fast and a fire burning to keep warm on that cool evening, Sr. Stella with all the confidence in the world and the passion of her convictions, let it rip.

She is one of hundreds of Catholic nuns from Korea and Jeju Island who visit Gangjeong Village frequently to stand in solidarity with the villagers and activists in their struggle against the construction of the naval base that is destroying the environment and their village, not to mention the denial of their human right to live peacefully there as they have done for over one thousand years.

Even today, some six months removed from my stay in Gangjeong Village, I am overcome with emotion as I pour through hours of interviews and video for my film, Jeju: In the Crosshairs of War.

I am sure you will enjoy meeting Sr. Stella and be moved by her message.