Archive for March 10th, 2007

When “Home” is Destroyed

Imagine being told tomorrow that your home – your house, neighborhood and town – would be bulldozed in a month to make way for new development, authorized and approved by your government. How would you react?

Likely you would feel a hateful cocktail of emotions – crushed, betrayed, forgotten, furious, lost – just as Kim In Soon feels.

Kim, along with the rest of the resistant citizens still living in rural Daechuri, South Korea, are being kicked out of their village to make way for the expansion of Camp Humphreys, a nearby American military base. As this post is being typed, they are packing up their things and leaving the fields they long have tilled, planting peas and garlic:

“We have been fighting for several years to save our village and we had hope. But after I heard the result of the latest negotiations with the government, I was shocked.

We must move out of the village no matter what. The news made me lose my sleep and I started to get headaches. I went to the hospital and the doctor told me that I was overstressed.

My neighbour and friend told me that she is not going to move with the rest of us to the resettlement area because her health is very poor and she will go to live with her daughter in the city. I have to say goodbye to my land, my home and my friends.”

(Kim In Soon, as told to the BBC)

The decision was announced in 2004, and the government has offered compensation and temporary housing – the BBC reports that about two-thirds of the villagers accepted and left willingly, while the rest stayed and resisted even as their farm land was being sectioned off with barbed wire.

(LINK: BBC photo series on the issue)

This seems to be the painful end of a long and ugly relationship between Daechuri’s citizens and the base – although I’m sure there are others who could disagree with me who have more direct knowledge. Kim says that at least four women in the village were raped by U.S. soldiers, including her brother’s wife. While I’ve no way of corroborating this, the track record of U.S. soldiers raping Korean women is not a good one – as highlighted in recent events.

Last week, the remaining citizens celebrated the last days of the Lunar New Year Celebration for the last time in their hometown, amid destroyed schoolbuildings and other ominous signs that the end was coming. (Pressian article, in Korean) All of them must vacate by the end of March.

This year, the garlic in Daechuri will not sprout – the footprints of the farmer heading off into the distance as black boots stomp on fertile soil.

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