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Massacre defined by political divide'4.3 has two facets; one is resistance and the other is the massacre,' says Yang Jo Hoon
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승인 2011.04.10  18:45:03
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▲ The 63rd year memorial ceremony was held at the 4.3 Haewon Bangsatap on April 1. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

The Jeju April 3 Massacre is a volatile subject, for it is still an incomplete history with more information needed to give it form. Its title went through several variations before today’s present politically-neutral term, the Jeju April 3 Incident, the official framework used to view this still-misunderstood chapter in Jeju’s history. This title, like all titles, is the lens that dictates how events should be examined.

In a previous article, “Shedding light on a dark corner of Jeju’s past” I wrote that all those spoken-to referred to what happened as an “incident.” For this article that all changed.

In an email interview Pastor Lee Sun Kyo, a man who has filed six lawsuits against April 3 related organizations – and recently had one dismissed by the Seoul High Court on March 31 – said the reason for taking legal actions was “to correct the Jeju 4.3 Truth-Finding Research report because the report is wrong and left leaning.”

Kim Chang Hoo, head of the 4.3 Research Institute, has on previous occasions referred to Pastor Lee as a neo-conservative, but on March 31, before the verdict was known, he said that Lee was not rational and only saw what he wanted to believe.

I asked Kim how he views his organization. “We think we are liberal,” he said.

Lee answered the same question stating that Korea was established by “liberal democrats, conservatives, who were rightest,” and if it were not for the police and military suppression of the Jeju 4.3 revolt, South Korea “might have become Communist and dominated by North Korea and Kim Il Sung.”

Kim said, without praise for the military or police, that after liberation from Japan much of Jeju’s citizens considered themselves socialist, and “If 4.3 was successful, Jeju might have become socialist … It is probable that socialism might lead to communism.”

When asked what was the most important issue concerning the massacre today, Lee said it is how it is referred to, continuing that “Jeju 4.3 is definitely an armed revolt, not an armed uprising.” Lee then listed 16 specific instances of rioters committing murders and kidnappings, particularly of conservative politicians, as evidence.

I mentioned some of Lee’s points to Kim, who remarked that his information was partially inaccurate and exaggerated but said “It is true that rebels harmed people. However, that is only a small thing compared to the huge massacre perpetrated by the military and the police. He only wants to focus on this one small thing. He is exaggerating. He is not looking at the big picture.”

Kim is correct, according to Yang Jo Hoon, lead April 3 Massacre investigative reporter for the Jeju Ilbo from 1988 to 1999: “90 percent of victims were harmed by the military and the police, [only] 10 percent of victims were harmed by rebels.”

“As a liberal,” said Kim, “I personally believe we should call [it the] 4.3 uprising. However, when I make official speeches about 4.3, I use the term ‘incident,’ since ‘uprising’ is a controversial term. If I call it the 4.3 uprising, I have to explain everything all over again.” He briefly explained earlier in the interview that “… ‘uprising’ is the best term for 4.3 because people who participated in the 4.3 uprising fought for a unified Korea.”

Jang Jung Eon, director of the Jeju April 3 Peace Foundation, the government-sanctioned body responsible for the information in the Jeju 4.3 Peace Park Museum, said “The right wing wants to define it as a ‘riot,’ and those involved in social movements want to call 4.3 an ‘uprising.’ However, according to the government, the term is Jeju April 3 Incident. Other terms will cause controversy.”

This is the neutral perspective, chosen specifically to appease both sides of the argument.

Yang said, “The 4.3 rebellion was political, but the massacre was not. The terminology was very difficult. 4.3 has two facets; one is resistance and the other is the massacre. It is hard to find a single word to combine those two aspects. I’m still looking for the right word. It is also hard to change the date, April 3, the day the guerrillas attacked, because the term is too widely known now. So it is hard to change it at the moment.”

All four of the people spoken to for this article have played important roles in defining what the April 3 Massacre is, and all said they were trying to uncover the truth of what happened exactly 63 years from the day this article was written. All of them, except for Jang, said that this title, this lens, needs to be changed.

(Interpretation by Song Jung Hee, translation by Koh Yu Kyung)

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