Sunday, May 29, 2005
Korean whaling villagers reconcile with Greenpeace protesters.
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"It all began at 6pm as promised. As the local development association leaders walked into the embassy, the police cars idled to a halt outside. The showdown had begun. What followed was a rollercoaster of a meeting with a wonderful result.
The local leaders spent a long time discussing the history of their community, how the number in their ‘dying’ community had dropped form 16000 to 1600 in only 10 years. They talked about how they accepted a polluting factory upwind so that they could have the whale research centre and whale museum as well.
With trembling hands as they spoke, these community representatives obviously did not want to be fighting. They explained that the embassy was okay, but the mounds with the whale tails behind were painful for them, striking an all too real chord of the past, whilst preventing them from embracing the future with oceans day and the opening of the whale museum. At that moment one of the crew ran into the meeting to whisper in our ear that three coach-loads of riot police had just arrived and parked on the ground outside the embassy. After sending climbers up the mast, we continued with our meeting, while the police officers listened close by.
We explained that the whale tail mounds were erected by us to illustrate the certain demise of whales and whaling communities if whaling is ever resumed. We offered to take down the mounds to show the genuine intentions of our goodwill, both to the whales and to the coastal fishing communities as well. They could not believe what they heard and were genuinely blown away. We explained that we would like to help find alternative ways to economically revive the community in a sustainable but profitable way.
Suddenly the president of the community group said he wanted to learn about whale watching and would welcome all the advice that we could give him on this. The guy next to him said that he would like to get the children from Jangsaengpo school to come and meet us and help design banners for oceans day to hang from the mast. Obviously over the moon, they added that because it was so obvious that we meant well, that Greenpeace could stay until the end of the IWC, and if we have any problems, then we should get in contact with them immediately. After a brief discussion of whale watching history in Australia, we all agreed that we would meet very soon to talk about each other’s concerns in more detail.
The meeting ended with a spontaneous round of applause and by the time we emerged from the embassy, the riot police had gone, disappearing as mysteriously as they had arrived. And so it was that the organization that wanted to blockade the Rainbow Warrior in Ulsan port last month and that publicly promised direct action against Greenpeace only 24 hours ago, ended up agreeing to reconnect our water, meet soon to discuss whale watching, send their children to the embassy to learn more about whales and insist on having a group photo together before they left.
We have now opened up a dialogue and potential friendship with the most historically pro-whaling community in Korea, and a group who are pushing for the whale factory as a means of reviving the community. We now have a month to create, persuade and help sell an alternative future for the community of Jangsaengpo.
The feeling in the camp is great and we are having pizzas to celebrate!"
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