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Yemenis Seek Asylum on Island That Resists US Militarization

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“The Hope School” on South Korea’s Jeju Island aims to build community between residents and newly arrived Yemenis.
Several days ago, I joined an unusual Skype call originated by young South Korean founders of “The Hope School.” Located on Jeju Island, the school aims to build a supportive community between island residents and newly arrived Yemenis who seek asylum in South Korea.
Jeju, a visa-free port, has been an entry point for close to 500 Yemenis who have traveled nearly 5000 miles in search of safety. Traumatized by consistent bombing, threats of imprisonment and torture, and the horrors of starvation, recent migrants to South Korea, including children, yearn for refuge.
Like many thousands of others who’ve fled Yemen, they miss their families, their neighborhoods, and the future they once might have imagined. But returning to Yemen now would be awfully dangerous for them.
Whether to welcome or reject Yemenis seeking asylum in South Korea has been a very difficult question for many who live on Jeju Island. Based in Gangjeong, a city long renowned for brave and tenacious peace activism, the founders of “The Hope School” want to show newly arrived Yemenis a respectful welcome by creating settings in which young people from both countries can get to know one another and better understand each other’s history, culture and language.
They regularly gather for exchanges and lessons. Their curriculum suggests solving problems without relying on weapons, threats, and force. In the “Seeing Yemen from Jeju” seminar, I was asked to speak about grass roots efforts in the US to stop the war in Yemen. I mentioned Voices has helped arrange demonstrations against war on Yemen in many US cities and that, relative to other antiwar campaigns we’ve participated in, we’ve seen some willingness within the mainstream media to cover the suffering and starvation caused by the war on Yemen.

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