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Jeju island’s memory of scar and sorrow
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승인 2012.12.21  17:29:18
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▲ Red Island. Photo by Kim Jinmi

Behind the term ‘4.3 Massacre,’ lie the tears and scars of the Jeju people. At the time of the massacre, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were killed, and many survivors were injured so heavily that they can’t live a normal life, even now, after nearly 60 years. The victims were attacked indiscriminately, and they didn’t know why; they couldn’t even claim for compensation officially according to Lee Jung Heung, the chairman of 4.3. Massacre Bereaved Family Association.

After World WarⅡ, Korea regained its independence, ending Japan’s 35 years of colonial rule. After the Japanese withdrawal, Korea had no government, and was managed by the United Nations in the south, and the Soviet Union in the north. The push for elections began in the south of Korea, and Soviet-controlled northern Korea claimed to have already held elections. Southern Korea— not yet an independent state— didn’t believe the authenticity of the northern elections, and decided to have their own separate election. Jeju people protested, believing that two different elections would solidify Korea’s separation. The government arrested 2,500 Jeju islanders, killing at least three of them, to break up the protests.

On March 1st, 1947, people gathered in Gwandeokjeong to commemorate the 28th anniversary of 3.1 day. A mounted police officer accidentally caused the death of a child at the gathering. People were very upset and began to protest. Police opened fire on the crowd killing 6 people.

In response to government’s violent reaction, people rose up and attacked a police station on April 3rd, 1948. The Government denounced them as communist and said that they would cleanse Jeju of the opponents of democracy. This is the real start of the 4.3 Massacre. The people who attacked the police were defined as “rebels” from that point on.

According to one survivor’s testimony, videotaped and presented at the 4.3 Peace Park, “Those killed by the massacre weren’t aware of the reasons behind the killings. In 1954, after the 4.3 Massacre, survivors had to restore their burned homes and land; that caused even more death. There was little food distribution support from religious charities.”

Seeing these interviews, reminds us of those who passed away. Many survivors were tortured terribly. Nearly 60 years have passed, however, the tears, pain and scars still remain in Jeju people’s minds. Those whose family members were tortured in the 4.3 Massacre are still demanding that the government apologize and compensate them officially. In 2003 President Noh Mu Hyun gave a public apology to Jeju people after 56 years, more than half a century on.

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