Since returning from S. Korea on September 30th of last year, I have been totally consumed with research and editing the film. Many people helped make it all possible with financial contributions and constant support and encouragement.
I’m indebted to Charles Hanley, Bruce Cumings, and Oliver Stone for their contributions. When Oliver told me the original title was too long and confusing (Jeju: In the Crosshairs of War…Again) I had to rethink it. During the interview, Oliver mentioned “ghosts” in describing those who had been massacred. Charles Hanley also told me about the ghosts that the men of the 7th Cavalry saw throughout their lives. They were the ones who massacred some 400 men, women and children at No Gun Ri under orders from “the top.” I also recalled hearing people in Gangjeong Village talk about ghosts. Hence, The Ghosts of Jeju.
I have entered the documentary into twelve major film festivals including Sundance, Chicago, Austin, Boston, Hollywood, San Diego Asian Festival, and the Seoul International Film Festival. The hope is that a distributor will pick it up. Meanwhile, a distributor in Los Angeles that favors documentaries of political and social issues agreed to view the film.
Thanks go out to Paul Michaud, Lucas Stewart, and Travis Steward of Patracompany LLC in Brunswick. They were always available to help with the film and this website. Paul and Lucas traveled with me to Washington, D.C. to film the interview with Oliver Stone. Paul also accompanied me to NYC to film the interview with Charles Hanley, and to Charlottesville, VA to film the interview with Bruce Cumings.
Finally, it was Bruce Gagnon who arranged for me to go to Jeju last August, and Bruce has supported my efforts with cash donations, constant encouragement, and reviewing the film at several stages of development. Our recollections of how it came about differ slightly, but here’s my version.
It was one day in mid August of last year that I was visiting with Bruce in his office, as was my custom on a weekly basis. I had been hearing and learning about Jeju from Bruce, so when he said “I’ve got to find three people to go to Jeju,” I said, “I’ll go” to which he replied “are you kidding?” I said I was serious, and he then said, “but will Paula (my wife) let you go?” Without asking Paula, I said, “no problem.”
So, right then and there, Bruce fired off an email to Jan Passion in San Francisco informing him that I was ready to go. Jan works for Peaceworkers with David Hartsough, and they have been paying for transportation to Jeju. Jan replied within minutes asking when I could go and if I would stay for a month. To which I said, “I can go as soon as we can book a flight.” Since I already had a passport, I only needed to pack. Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Seoul with over 100 lbs of equipment.
Bruce also made arrangements for Fr. Pat Cunningham to meet me at Inchon airport in Seoul, and that turned out to be the most important connection I would make. Pat is a Columban Missionary priest from Ireland who has been in Korea for 17 years. I stayed with the Columbans in Seoul for a few days before flying down to Jeju with Pat, who made all of the introductions and arrangements for where I would stay.
From Pat and the Columbans,I learned a great deal about Korea and the history of the past 60 years. Several of the priests had been in Korea for 40 years working with the poor and disenfranchised.
The next three weeks were not what I had expected, and I think the film will convey what I learned so I won’t belabor that here. Suffice it to say, what I learned made me cry and I felt angry at what my country had done at the conclusion of World War II and beyond. I began to realize that I wasn’t going to document another anti-war demonstration. As Charles Hanley told me, “you stumbled onto something much bigger than you could imagine.” And, indeed I did.
The story I tell in the film has never been told this way and most Americans will be surprised at what they learn about America’s history, not only in Korea and on Jeju, but everywhere the military has gone, constructed war bases displacing indigenous people and destroying the environment from Thule, Greenland to the islands of the South Pacific, and from Asia to South America.
I don’t know if this film will ever make it into even the smallest of venues, but it is a story that Americans and peace-loving people everywhere must know before it is too late. While the struggle on Jeju may be lost… maybe not, the indomitable spirit and courage of the people of Gangjeong village will provide hope that one day we can learn to live in peace with all who people the earth, all the creatures of the earth, and with the only home we have. It is my hope that everyone who sees this film will join in the efforts of millions around the world to bring peace and justice to the only home we have.
Here’s the trailer for The Ghosts of Jeju: