- US director’s brief visit to protest site to see why the village “has to be saved.”
|▲ Stone is shown around the Gangjeong site. Photo by The Jeju Weekly|
“Is it hard or soft?”
“Your suitcase! I’m trying to tell the people so they can fill out the form.”
Oliver Stone, director of award-winning films Platoon and Wall Street, stood at the edge of a rock face outside the village of Gangjeong, overlooking where the fresh water met the salt water.
The weather was oppressively hot, which had become commonplace for Jeju Island in the recent weeks. However, neither the heat, nor his bag that went missing at the airport when he arrived, stopped Stone from taking the time to look at what he was fighting for.
“Oh, it’s hard…soft. Hard soft,” he lackadaisically responded to his assistant; something more pressing was on his mind.
|▲ Stone is informed of the issues by protesters. Photo by The Jeju Weekly|
Stone said he first heard about the Gangjeong protests when he’d watched a documentary made by a few Korean filmmakers, who were also in attendance, ready to film his tour of the village.
Upon entering Gangjeong for the first time, it’s easy to confuse it with any other small town on the island. There’s a row of restaurants, a bank, even a CU convenience store at the bus stop.
The similarities end there, however, as yellow flags spackle the landscape, screaming such things as “NO NAVAL BASE!”, and “GANGJEONG IS OUR HOME”. Following the flags down the hill, the lush orange trees begin to thin out, the green houses become less frequent, and the long discussed issue reveals itself as a graffiti laden wall rises as one gets closer to the harbor.
|▲ Protest graffiti at the construction site. Photo by The Jeju Weekly|
It’s a stark, jarring juxtaposition; cranes crowd the shoreline, doing work twenty four hours a day now. Nearing the harbor, Oliver stopped with the camera crew as he saw the construction.
“[They put in these breakers] and the storm came and broke all that (expletive) up, so they have to start over.” Stone was referring to last year’s typhoon, which cost the $900 million construction an extra $35 million.
“There are a lot of undercover cops out here.” said Paco, one of the members of the “Gaecheogja” (Pioneers), the main group devoted to stopping the construction of the naval base.
Traveling into the woods around the coastline, a few tents were spotted on a hill; protesters have moved their lives out here. Still making sure to take care of the environment, convenience store bags hung from trees - one for trash, one for recycling, of course.
When the crew arrived at the rock face, Paco pointed at the high ledge, and translated for one of the Gaecheogja leaders.
“He said, ‘If you stand there, you will know why this village must be saved.’”
After Stone climbed down from the point, they asked him if he saw.
He didn’t need to respond.
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