Until about a decade ago, Korean Law prohibited people from talking about the Jeju Massacre or anything related to April 3rd or communism. This has resulted in a historical void in regard to the seven years of armed conflict on the island between 1948 and 1954.
In 1948, shortly after South Korea was established, the South Korean National Assembly passed the National Traitors Act which outlawed the Workers Party of South Korea and vilified any act or persons deemed socialist.
For nearly 50 years after the Jeju Massacre, Korean citizens could be arrested, beaten, and jailed for merely mentioning it. For nearly four decades, the Jeju Massacre was ignored by the government. And it was only in 1992, with the discovery of the remains of massacre victims in Darangshi cave, that the massacre began to receive national attention. In response, the government ordered the cave sealed as an act to further suppress this horrible scar in Korean history.
It wasn’t until April 2006 that the survivors and the families of massacre victims received any apology, recognition or compensation when then President Roh Moo Hyun, made the first public apology to the citizens of Jeju and the remaining survivors. However, six years after President Roh’s apology, Korean citizens still do not know the events surrounding what is known by Korean as 4.3.
In 1987 democracy was brought to Korea which resulted in social and political movements lead by students, journalists, and activists motivated by their desire to uncover the truth surrounding the events of 4.3. In 2000, the South Korean government created the South Korean Truth Commission which was established to investigate these “lost” historical events. Still, many of the facts surrounding the event’s of the Jeju Massacre are little known, if at all, to South Korean citizens.
In a previous article by The Jeju Weekly dated Jan. 15, 2010 (Issue 17), a history teacher from the mainland stated that the general public does not know about the massacre and choose not to bother themselves with this tragic imagery. However, a younger generation of Koreans seem to disagree.
Seoul resident Nam Hyuna, 32, stated that she had not been taught anything about the Jeju Massacre before she entered college and even then, she was taught very little. When asked what she knew about the event Nam responded that she “can’t say anything [about 4.3] because there is not enough info about that event. Media and people say different things.”
Like many other young Koreans, Nam would love to learn more about this important part of Korean history. “It would be great to know [about this] part of Korean history,” she said, adding that she hopes the Korean government will investigate and reveal the truth about 4.3.
For Jeju residents, knowledge regarding the 4.3 events is more commonplace even though it is not officially taught in school. When asked about 4.3 a local high school student said, “It is very basic knowledge for [a] Jeju person!” but admitted that “it is not regulation curricular” and that when it does come up in school, it is only given a small amount of time in the classroom.
In researching this story, The Jeju Weekly approached the Ministry of Education for comment about the Jeju Massacre and the national school curriculum, but as of publication The Weekly had not received a reply. — Ed.
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