▲ “Even though the timing is different, the fact that they are both an island, that the U.S. army was involved in it, and that many innocent residents were victimized are so similar,” said Arakaki Yasko, Japanese historian, about Jeju and Okinowa. Photo courtesy Jemin Ilbo.
“Jeju brings out a comforting feeling just like my small hometown in Okinawa,” says Arakaki Yasko, 60-year-old Jeju historian and lecturer from Okinawa, Japan. For a decade, she has been frequently visiting Jeju.
She was mesmerized by the beauty of Jeju as well as its aching past.
Similar sorrowful pasts “The moment I see a stone wall outstretched endlessly along the peaceful Olle road, a comfortably warm feeling lifts up my heart,” she said.
For Yasko, this tranquil scenery takes her mind back to her hometown. Not only is their natural beauty similar but their pasts also share a common ground.
“A war broke out in 1945 in Okinawa and in 1948 in Jeju. Even though the timing is different, the fact that they are both an island, that the U.S. army was involved in it, and that many innocent residents were victimized are so similar,” Yasko said.
The first time she came across Jeju history was at the 4.3 Fiftieth Anniversary International Scholarly Symposium. She was studying Jeju Island, particularly Jeju history.
“I wanted to let Okinawa people know about Jeju,” she said. “There’s Okinawa war in Okinawa and the 4.3 incident in Jeju. After the tragedy, U.S. military base was built. Going through it in my childhood, it still burns my heart and I now strongly oppose war.”
April 3 “Sa sam” massacre detailed The Jeju massacre or the Jeju April 3rd massacre, took place from April 3, 1948 to September 21, 1954, as a result of suppression of armed rebellion in Jeju Island.
An intricate interplay of guerilla forces, police, locals and national army together with U.S. presence leads to the tragedy. The South Korean provisional government, under U.S. guidance, conducted nationwide campaigns to remove communists and their sympathizers. This caused chaos around the nation, and in Jeju where the communist influence was stronger, many continued an armed resistance against government action.
Rebels during this period were labeled communists for political reasons while their true motives and slogans did not necessarily have to do with communism. The confusion had been triggered by a brutal suppression on the islanders' smuggling which was, at that time, a major source of income for the island.
Arbitrary incarcerations, torture, rape, and killings of locals accused of being smugglers and communists by police eventually led to a successful simultaneous attack by angry locals on all police stations on the islands on April 3, 1948. To suppress the situation, the government chose to mobilize the armed forces and this caused countless casualties.
Even after the Korean War, the rebellion continued. Estimates of deaths among the island's people range from 30,000 to 80,000 — up to a quarter of the population.
Yasko has organized an occasional meeting among those who feel the same interest towards Jeju. About 20 Japanese Jeju-lovers gather together to study and learn about Jeju history and nature.
“There have been many rough moments between Korea and Japan in the past. However, we need to get rid of that wall through exchanging and understanding each other better,” she said.
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