▲ Due to inclement weather, attendees moved to the April 3rd Peace Park auditorium. Many thousands more watched the ceremony in the building or outside. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
At the April 3rd Peace Park in Jeju City, the island commemorated 64 years since the breakout of the Jeju Massacre (known as 4.3 in Korean). It is one of the deadliest armed conflicts in Korea’s modern history.
The cold, windy weather prevented the Jeju April 3 memorial service from taking place at the outdoor All Soul’s Altar as planned. It forced roughly 7,000 attendees to cram into the park’s main building.
Participating in the ceremony was Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min, former Prime Minister and current Democratic United Party leader Han Myeong Sook, Jeju Provincial Assembly Chairman Oh Chung Jin, Jeju April 3 Peace Foundation President Kim Young Hoon, the 4.3 Bereaved Families Committee President Hong Sung Su, and a large selection of local politicians. In lieu of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, Prime Minister Kim Hwang Sik attended.
During the Jeju Massacre, beginning on April 3, 1948 and continuing until 1954, an estimated 30,000 Jeju residents were killed, mostly by South Korean forces, due to the worry that Jeju Island had become home to a growing number of Communists and sympathizers for the newly formed North Korea.
After the massacre, all public discussion about it was censored. Anyone who mentioned the event was considered a Communist and punishment ran from being shunned by their community to being imprisoned and tortured.
It was only until the 1990s, after Korea became a democracy, that the people of Jeju openly fought for the event to be publicly recognized. In 2000, the Korean government passed a Special Act to uncover what happened during these violent seven years.
Six years ago, then South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun visited Jeju and apologized to the island’s citizens for the government’s involvement in the massacre.
▲ Jeju Governor Woo Keun Min. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
The service began at 11 a.m. inside the park’s 250-seat auditorium, which was filled with politicians and government officials. The majority of the people, some loudly voicing their anger at the haphazard changes caused by the inclement weather, had to sit throughout the building and watch the ceremony on televisions.
During his speech, Governor Woo spoke of how the massacre is not simply a part of Jeju’s history but that of Korea’s as well, adding that the government’s title for the events, “the Jeju April 3 Incident,” should be changed.
“I think Jeju 4.3 has not earned a complete and proper name yet. Its name will come when every Korean sympathizes with the brutal historic truth of 4.3 and memorizes the spirit of Jeju 4.3 and commemorates those spirits of 4.3,” said Governor Woo.
Prime Minister Kim then took to the podium and said that the massacre should act as a warning against “excessive ideological conflicts” and that the government has done their utmost to honor the victims. He acknowledged, however, those who feel the government should do more for the people who have been affected by the massacre.
▲ Thousands were left to watch the ceremony on TV screens, as the park's auditorium seats only about 1,000 people. Inclement weather forced the commemoration indoors at the April 3rd Peace Park. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
“You may feel that it is still not enough, however the government will keep striving to honor those 4.3 victims and their family members. The 4.3 Incident, which was clarified and officially apologized for by the government, should not be used nor be put on the sacrificial table for draining ideology conflicts, anymore,” the prime minister said.
The final speaker, Hong Sung Su, president of the 4.3 Bereaved Families Committee, expressed his sorrow that the president did not attend the event and made three requests of the central government: To make April 3 a national holiday; to host another registration period for victims and their families who were unable to do so for the government’s research into the massacre in 2003; and to look after the welfare of those who have been registered as victims.
With the conclusion of the speeches and a poem by high school student Kim Hyun Gyung, all the dignitaries paid their respects to those who were killed some six decades ago by placing white flowers upon an altar as burning incense wafted in the air.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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