Resident Memory, Resonant Trauma: Incidental Migration and Long-Term Antiwar Protest on South Koreas Jeju Island

Friday, January 6, 2017: 11:30 AM
Centennial Ballroom A (Hyatt Regency Denver)
Nan Kim, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Contemporary political activism is more readily associated with defending the rights of migrants, rather than becoming migrants in order to engage in forms of activist practice. On South Korea’s Jeju Island, the jikimideul (guardians), is the collective term for the peace activists who have relocated from the mainland to partake in Gangjeong Village’s anti-militarization movement in opposition to a newly constructed and fiercely contested naval base. Central to this struggle, the jikimideul help to anchor a small but highly visible community that has taken root since 2012. Through activism and network-building, the village has established itself as a vital node among transnational peace movements. The jikimideul and other Gangjeong activists have become known for the range and prodigiousness of their creative production, generating a milieu of artistic, intellectual, and polemical practice dedicated to refusing the culture of war. Beyond dissent against the wrongful dispossession of territory, at the heart of this movement is the anguished memory of Gureombi, a continuous 1.2-kilometer stretch of coastal habitat and volcanic rock formation, long regarded as sacred land. In 2012, against the outraged protests of local residents, international activists, and global advocacy groups, Gureombi was blasted by dynamite and destroyed. The wanton destruction by state agents and the related violent repression by police forces sent from the mainland recalled how island residents are still traumatized by legacies of the “April 3rd massacre,” a period of ideologically driven state violence (1948-1953) that killed an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 people. This paper explores both personal migration narratives and the place of traumatic memory in the “Culture of Peace and Life Movement,” which goes beyond a strictly anti-base campaign and instead informs an alternative political community’s embodied opposition to the logic of global militarism itself.
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