Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice haunted by ‘The Ghosts of Jeju’


PITTSFIELD -- One of the most underreported world news items hit the Berkshires, as independent filmmaker Regis Tremblay screened his documentary "The Ghosts of Jeju" for a Berkshires Citizens for Peace and Justice gathering at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Wendell Avenue.

Part of South Korea’s Jeju Province, Jeju Island is a small land mass located 60 miles off the southern tip of the mainland in the East China Sea.

"Because of people like yourselves, this movie is making its way around the country and the world," Tremblay told the 20 who attended.

The film documents the struggles of Jeju Islands residents, whom Tremblay deems "at the front lines of the global struggle against militarism, war, destruction of the environment and the abuse of human rights."

Donald Lathrop, of Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice, acquired a copy of Tremblay’s film some months ago, saying he planned to show it before contacting its maker.

"I told a friend of mine in New Hampshire we were going to be showing the film and she said, ‘Wait, you should give [Tremblay] a call,’" Lathrop said.

Tremblay, seeking to promote the film in the U.S., made the trip down from Maine to attend last week.

The footage Tremblay shot dates from September 2012, and is supplemented by interviews conducted with Korean experts, professors and peace activists.

Jeju Island, and specifically its Gangjeong Village, is the desired location of a massive U.S. naval base to house a missile defense system, including Aegis destroyers equipped with anti-ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

Part of President Obama’s "pivot to Asia," the move means to check Chinese expansion, shifting 60 percent of U.S. naval might to the region.

Elderly villagers, young mainland activists, monks, priests, nuns and international visitors oppose the plans and have staged daily protests of the construction for years. Since protests began, South Korea has jailed more than 600 protesters.

"They’ve become an important symbol for the peace movement all over the world," Tremblay said.

As Tremblay states in his film, a knowledge of Korean history underscores protesters’ outrage.

Following World War II, tensions between the Korean domestic population and the military government established by the U.S. rose, resulting in the Korean War.

During the conflict, the U.S. carpet-bombed and napalmed North Korea, and trained, equipped and commanded security forces to put down uprisings in the South, including on Jeju.

Resulting in the "Jeju Uprising," as many as 60,000 islanders were killed and tens of thousands more imprisoned.

In view of this history, the South Korean government apologized in 2003 and declared Jeju the "Island of Peace." Given the new realities, these steps, initially the cause of much exultation, sting with irony.

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