Day 3A: Rooster Kings

The myth starts with the creation of the world, when the sky and the earth were one. As there were no sky nor earth, as a result, there was only an empty void. However, one day, a gap formed in the void. All that was lighter than the gap headed upwards and formed the sky. All that was heavier than the gap fell down to become the earth. From the sky fell a clear blue drop of dew, and from the earth rose a dark black drop of dew. As these two drops mixed, all that existed, except the sun, moon, and the stars, came to be. From these two drops came humans and even the gods.

The leader of the gods, Cheonjiwang, awoke to the cry of the three roosters; the Rooster Emperor of the Sky (Korean: 천황닭), the Rooster Emperor of the Earth (Korean: 지황닭), and the Rooster Emperor of Humans (Korean: 인황닭). According to some scholars, the cry of the roosters signify time.[4]) Cheonjiwang knew that the three roosters were crowing because there was no sun. To appease the roosters, Cheonjiwang crafted two suns and two moons, and made the two suns rise and fall every day and the two moons rise and fall every night.

Day 3 really started at the end of Day 2.  But I’ll explain.

We had a late night meeting with Won Buddhists that I sadly can’t really remember well because I was exhausted, but I do recall video being taken.  I’ll add it here when I get a copy of it.  After that, we headed to the Buddhist retreat center where we were sleeping for the night.

It’s worth mentioning that prior to maybe 50 years ago, what I think of as a traditional bed was not that popular in Korea.  It was common, and in many places is still common, to sleep on the floor with a blanket and a pillow essentially.  The concept, known as ondol sleeping, was an option made available to us at the Won Buddhist Retreat Center.  Most folks were worried about me sleeping this way because of my size and circulation issues.  The heat was oppressive and it definitely had an effect on me.

But there was no way in Hell I was going to miss out on sleeping in a traditional space.  So I did.

On the floor that night, fan blowing on me as I lay drinking water and enjoying the peace of the natural setting, I made some decisions that are important for context later on:

–  It had become clear that if I was going to be a full participant, I needed to be ready to make commitments.  I didn’t fly 15 hours, destroying my sleep cycle, to smile and shake hands.  I wanted to get shit done.

–  I have circulation problems and that’s just a truth in my life.  I need to make sure I don’t hurt myself, but those problems can’t ever take me out of the room.  No matter the pain, I’m staying in the room.

I went to sleep knowing that the next day would be tough.

We woke up the next day to an awesome breakfast from our hosts and some great conversation.  The ride to Seongju was short and upon arrival at the temple where the days’ events took place, we were introduced to the space where we would meet with farmers from the village.  The building was one of few areas with air conditioning, so there were many people moving in and out.  The floor was littered with shoes of folks anxious to meet with us.  We added our shoes to the pile and, after some settling in, we gathered in a large circle together.

The big circle, the size of pretty much the entire room, was on one side made up of villagers and our delegation.  The other side was 75 percent press, the rest our interpreters and a few other folks who were wandering in and out.  As the cameras took photos of us sitting, the villagers looking ready and most of us looking uncomfortable sitting on the floor, I could feel my lower body slowly growing numb.  We went around doing introductions and I could feel that my extremities were getting cold despite the day’s heat.  It got bad enough that I was having a hard time even listening to people talk about their role in the struggle against THAAD in Seongju.  I gestured to Wol-San that I needed to stand up and move, but my lower body was asleep.  I asked Will for some help in getting up and he generously helped me to my feet, even as my right leg completely locked up and blazed with pins and needles.  Will said aloud that maybe we should take a break and go outside and, even though I was in pain I knew what I had to do.

“No, I’ll be fine.”


“Yeah, I don’t care what happens.  I’m not leaving the room.”

I limped over to the doorframe and decided to remain standing for the rest of the meeting.  Medea took the place I was sitting, ensuring the pictures would still look good and there wouldn’t be an empty space.  The circle round continued, and we entered the meat of the conversation fairly quickly.

The villagers and others explained many reasons why the THAAD missile system was such a horrible thing.  In their explanations you could hear the root of various presentations and press statements made by many in the delegation.  Everything from potential health risks to the placement of the system in a site of religious significance came into play.  The system was incredibly disruptive in their lives and they, in general, just wanted the damnded thing gone.  We were mostly going through the motions slowly when someone asked, pointedly, what steps we planned on taking when we returned.  The room was quiet for a second, so I volunteered to talk first.

I first informed people about who I was talking to when I returned home.  I let them know that the American labor movement is taking a great deal of interest in what I was doing and when I wrote these blog posts at night, I received lots of interested communication.  I told them that the first thing that was going to happen was an extended amount of time spent communicating this message on a kind of tour.  I’d spend this time telling people what the villagers told me, with the idea that we would figure out a way to do something about it.  The villagers applauded furiously and, while I was happy that they were happy, I needed them to know that I wasn’t done.

If I was going to tour the country talking about them and their experiences, there also needs to be more visits from other trade unionists we are in relationship with.  Because of the work that our organization has been doing around just transition, it only makes sense that as we find workers that are willing to confront militarism with us that we should include them on these tours at some point in the future.  I did my best then to implore them to be open to the people I bring back.  Most military-industrial complex workers aren’t the soulless and greedy people they are said to be.  Most of them, when they learn of the devastation their product causes, are deeply affected.  If they were willing to allow them in and develop a relationship, there was no telling how far we could go.

That meeting ended with the usual pictures and handshakes and we all exited into the hot air outside.  At this point we had additional press interviews and the chance to connect with villagers one on one, so we all split up with either a translator or on our own.  I found a quiet spot to sit with a bottle of water and used the space to connect with people.  After a few minutes, I was joined by two men with beige khaki pants and white shirts.

“Hi.  Are you Reece?”


“Hello.  I’m Mr. X and this is Mr. Y.  We’re Foreign Intelligence agents.”

Uh oh.

Glad to be back, though I wish circumstances were better all around.  More later.

One thought on “ Day 3A: Rooster Kings

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