Thursday, April 23, 2009
Day 3 - Pyeongtaek
You've already seen the kim chee dining videos from Saturday's trip to the mountains surrounding Pyeongtaek, but not to the trip beforehand. In the morning of April 18, Global Network and GPPAC had its respective business meetings, but in the afternoon, the Pyeongtaek Peace Center had a special trip planned for us. We went to the Morin gate of what is officially known as the Songtan Air Base, but which the U.S. Air Force has re-named Osan Air Force Base. Locals are demonstrating against the expansion of runways at the base, and the placement of batteries of PAC-3 missiles.
Two conference attendees I didn't get the chance to meet until Saturday were Viktoria and Vadim from Vladivostok (no, I couldn't make that kind of alliterative stuff up). Activists in Russia's Far East have been very aware of Pacific Rim struggles on both the military and on environmental issues, and it's always fun to meet folks from there. Viktoria is on the left in this shot, Vadim is on the right, and immediately to Vadim's left is Marte Hellema of GPPAC - between Viktoria and Marte is a woman I never met, named Mari perhaps?
After the protest, Kang Sang-Won led us on a guided tour of the base perimeter, where we left the bus and took a series of small vans so we could navigate the one-lane fishing roads. We saw the small villages that had been removed to make room for airfields, and the batteries of PAC-3 missiles that had been moved in to prepare for the potential North Korean assaults that obsess the minds of military planners. The continuous expansion plans at the base make it obvious the work that locals confront.
Since I had to leave Sunday, I couldn't participate in the trip to Mugeon-ri, where farmers have been displaced from rice fields because of the U.S. efforts to expand the Mugeon-ri Military Training Fields in order to test the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Bruce Gagnon has pictures and information about his trip here.