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Justice 1st

Justice 1st
By Bruce Gagnon | Organizing Notes


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Another busy day in Seoul began with the visit to Eun-A Choi of the Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification (PKAR) at the detention center. Sung-Hee and I took a cab and about halfway there we heard an air raid siren come over the car radio. That familiar frantic voice warning of danger, even though in Korean, was distinguishable to me. Sung-Hee began to translate that it was an instruction for all life in the city to halt for the next five minutes. Traffic came to a grinding halt and the radio voice explained that this was "like a sports team that must practice defensive exercises" together. The voice went on to say that this test, linked to the US-South Korea war games that began yesterday, were being done as part of globalization to protect us from terrorist attack. "Stay at home and save water," the voice instructed.

I was completely flummoxed and asked Sung-Hee to question the driver about his feelings about this incredible happening. It reminded me of the "crawl-under-the-desk" nuclear war drills we did in the 4th grade at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The cab driver told us that he supported these exercises and that they are done each month. We have to be prepared in case of a North Korean attack, he claimed. The public is losing their intensity about the exercises though as they are not so afraid of war because they know North Korea is weak and the US will protect South Korea, the driver said.

I asked Sung-Hee to tell the driver that I thought this was a brainwashing of the whole country all at once, psychological operations (psy-ops) in action. Make the people fearful and they will agree to be in a constant state of war with North Korea for sure.

As we neared the prison I told Sung-Hee to tell the driver that I was an American and that I thought these exercises were intended to keep South Korea buying military hardware from the US weapons industry. Weapons are the #1 industrial export product of the US, I said.

Amazingly the cabbie then replied that I was right. He said the public understands this and not everyone likes the Americans these days. The public knows that the weapons industry is getting rich from all of this. But, he insisted, we must be prepared anyway.

Sung-Hee summed it up well as we got out of the car: the public understands more than we think they do but the people are still confused.

Once in the prison we had to wait for about 45 minutes before three of us (one PKAR staff member was with us) were allowed into the visiting room. It was a small room with three chairs on our side of the glass and a microphone on each side of the window. Eun-A came in and a woman jail attendant sat behind her at a little table and began taking notes of the conversation. Eun-A looked good, seemed positive considering she has been behind bars since May 7, and was wearing a short-sleeved green cotton jail uniform that had her #221 right above the front pocket.

Eun-A said she very much appreciated the international solidarity that we helped build for the six who had been arrested for trying to bring reunification to the country. She said that she had read the paper this morning and seen that I had spoken at the news conference yesterday. She explained that she was now preparing for the trail and was happy to see the growing support in her country for reconciliation.

Sung-Hee asked about the size of her jail cell. It is about the same size as the interior of most cars. She is allowed outside for one hour each day to exercise. She is allowed to subscribe to newspapers.

Before we knew it our 10 minutes was up and we had to say good-bye. On the way out of the building, just above the front door of the prison were the words "Justice 1st" in Korean and English. Yeah, I thought, she is facing up to 3-5 years for wanting to reunite her nation. That is real justice.

Yesterday we heard that Amnesty International is considering taking on the case of the PKAR six. If they deem it worthy it would surely be a boost to efforts to build international support to free these peace workers from the inside of a South Korean jail. Isn't it amazing how much publicity the two women journalists got when North Korea locked them up and Bill Clinton went and busted them out? But no international media is interested in the PKAR six. Why not?

As we were leaving I told Eun-A that since Bill Clinton was interested in getting women released from Korean jails maybe I should see if he'd help get her out. After she laughed at the joke she shook her head NO and waved her hand as if to say, thanks but no thanks.

Eun-A, and the other five now in prison, will have to do it without the support of the fat cats.

Their release will only come when the people of the world demand real justice - justice 1st, justice last, and justice always.


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