The Jeju April 3 Peace Foundation began a new government research project this March investigating the Jeju Massacre (commonly known as 4.3 in Korean) with the purpose of filling in gaps that the foundation’s previous report, released in 2003, was unable to answer.
The Jeju Massacre was seven years of armed conflict on the island. Between 1948 and 1954, an estimated 30,000 Jeju citizens were killed, with a large majority of those deaths caused by government forces. For decades the government squelched all public debate about the massacre, and blamed the deaths on supposed Communists.
The 2003 report publicly revealed that this was not the case. According to Jeju April 3 Peace Foundation Researcher — and one of seven researchers working on the new project — Park Chan Sik, with the release of the 2003 report, the government publicly admitted to killing its own people.
“The government is admitting that a lot of people died … It is very important that the government accepted the fact that about 80 percent died because of government forces. It is very hard for a government to accept that it killed so many people, that is why it is important,” Park told The Weekly at his Jeju 4.3 Peace Park office in late March.
The new research project, which will take three years to complete at a cost of 200 million won annually, picks up where the other one left off. Its purpose is threefold: to uncover the truth of what happened to 5,000 people (assumed dead) who went missing during the massacre and have yet to be accounted for, to determine which villages victims of the massacre were from, and to understand the aftereffects of the massacre upon Jeju citizens who lived through the tragedy.
“All three aspects we had a hard time finding the truth last time because we heavily relied upon government documents and records,” Park said.
He continued that on top of that, for the 2003 report there were very few documents to go through. Since the 2003 report, a list of roughly 15,000 victims of the massacre has been complied and will be used for the foundation’s new project. This list will be compared to research done by other 4.3 (mostly private) institutes and recorded interviews to try and piece together the stories of the 5,000 missing people.
“It is very hard to find missing persons on government documents … We are going to use the bottom up approach,” he said.
The second endeavor of the research project will be to identify the villages of those who were killed during the massacre. This information, he said, is not necessarily crucially important but it will help to create a fuller picture of the massacre.
The third, and most timely aspect of this research, is that the foundation will attempt to understand the effects of the massacre on those who lived through it, like the stigma surrounding surviving family members of a person who was killed for being a suspected Communist. It is widely known, though there has been little supporting research, that people have be ostracized within Jeju society if they had a relative who was killed during the massacre.
“We are looking into psychological disadvantages the victims had to suffer through, especially those linked to the family. That is if your mother or father was arrested you must be a Commie,” Park said.
2012 marks 64 years since the massacre occurred and those who experienced the tragedy are getting older with many of them having already passed away. This, Park said, will make their research more difficult.
“It’s been over 10 years since the 2003 report came out and it’s been over 60 years since 4.3 actually happened and a lot of people are dying or have passed away so in some sense this will be the last official research being conducted on actual victims,” said Park. “So I feel a duty to keep good records.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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