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Decades ago, liberal Protestants used to admire brave South Korea and its Methodist president, Syngman Rhee, for defying Stalinist North Korea and Maoist Red China. But for much of the last 40 years, the international Religious Left, even in South Korea, has angrily denounced the U.S.-South Korea military alliance. Meanwhile, global activist prelates are typically silent about gross human rights abuses in North Korea even when Christians are the victims. Leftist prelates from the Left love visiting the Potemkin show churches that North Korea hosts in Pyongyang to entertain gullible overseas visitors.
Now the Religious Left is campaigning against South Korea’s constructing a naval base on a volcanic island called Jeju off its southern coast. “Today, islanders, religious leaders, and peace activists are calling attention to dangers caused by joint U.S.-South Korean militarization,” announced one U.S.-based Korean activist on Jim Wallis’ Sojourners blog. Apparently there are also spiritual and environmental considerations, since Jeju is the mythical “body of Korea’s creation goddess, Mago.” And UNESCO, which is perhaps even more holy than an ancient goddess, has decreed that Jeju is a World Heritage Site and a World Biosphere Reserve.
The campaign against a South Korean naval presence on Jeju is a little reminiscent of the long-time and ultimately successful Religious Left crusade to close the U.S. Navy’s munitions testing base at Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico. United Methodist bishops from the U.S., having evidently decided there were few greater threats to peace and justice, even motor boated out to Vieques to show solidarity with its oppressed people.
Maybe they can make similar pilgrimages to Jeju before it is fully desecrated by the South Korean Navy, who inexcusably want to defend their nation from the now 60-year threat of North Korean aggression. Already under construction, the base will despoil a “unique three-quarter-mile stretch of coastal wetland, threatening an ecological system that harbors several endangered species.” Even worse, the naval base will fuel “increasing military tensions in Asia, raising the risk of a devastating war in the region.” How will South Korea’s installing a base on its own island off its southern coast, far from North Korea, threaten peace? Evidently any self-defense by South Korea, backed by the U.S., is by definition a threat.
The South Korean military has reputedly announced that U.S. warships will dock at the new base only temporarily. But even five minutes is too long for the international Religious Left. Leftist South Korean clergy are staging ongoing protests on Jeju. After all, as the Sojourners blogger intoned, the “protest is a struggle for peace and justice and a fight against military power, potential war, and a privileged few.” The final reference is evidently to construction companies, which are sinning by making a profit from their labor. She quotes a protesting Franciscan Friar: “It’s the call of the gospel against human power destroying the kingdom of God.”
Other opponents of the naval base allege it will facilitate U.S. Pacific-based anti-missile defense systems, which evidently is sinister, even if protecting South Korea from North Korean missiles. Still other critics complain the base will “play a strategic role in efforts by the U.S.-South Korea-Japan alliance to reign in Chinese naval expansion.” Worrisomely, the naval presence will “serve as a strategic offensive outpost for South Korea and its allies.”
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