South Korean farmers lament eviction

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea – Seventy-year-old Susan Kim Soon-deuk has toiled for 50 years to transform a tidal mud flat into farmland, but the South Korean government has taken it from her.

“I feel victimized by the government’s plan to convert our village to a U.S. military base. I suffered a lot in reclaiming fertile farmland from the tidal flats,” a tearful Kim told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, April 7.

Kim and 58 families protested the eviction order with a 935-day candlelight vigil that ended March 24. On April 7, Kim and about 200 other villagers, along with social activists, organized a farewell ceremony to their homes.

“My protest ended in vain and I was kicked out,” Kim said.

The families have been moved to an area about 20 minutes from their old homes, but the government has yet to complete living arrangements there.

Residents of the small farming village Daechu-ri in Pyeongtaek, about 35 miles south of the capital, Seoul, were forced off their land near Camp Humphreys. The U.S. Army base is being expanded to accommodate personnel from the 8th U.S. Army and Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command currently stationed in Seoul.

The government purchased the land and had to take court action against 160 homeowners who refused to sell their property. It then forcibly evacuated villagers who would not leave the area. By March 31, the government was able to buy all the land needed for the expansion.

Father Bartholomew Moon, who moved to Daechu-ri in February 2005 and has been living with the farmers to protest the government plan, told UCA News April 7, “Today’s tears bear witness to the dark side of a government that subjects itself to U.S. imperialism.”

An official of the Ministry of National Defense said the government would close the road to Daechu-ri and start construction work in mid-April.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.