▲ Director Kim Ig-su believes the national memorial day designation is a "significant turning point." Photo by Darren Southcott
On Tuesday, March 18, a government cabinet meeting passed proposals to make April 3 a national memorial day in memory of the victims and bereaved of Jeju 4.3. The proposal is expected to be fully approved by President Park Geun-hye on March 25. The tragedy, also known as the Jeju or April 3 Massacre, claimed 30 thousand lives between 1947 and 1954.
Campaigners have long been campaigning for the designation since the promulgation of the April 3 Special Law in 2003 and Kim Ig-su, Director of April 3rd Peace Foundation, believes alongside the expected visit of President Park Geun-hye, it signals a positive change in the official approach to the national tragedy.
“At this significant historical turning point, as director, I express my happiness [and] I give thanks to the Park Geun-hye administration for the important decision taken.”
“Out from the shade and into the sun, this is a moment of rebirth for 4.3, 66 years after its outbreak,” said Kim. “I think that now, step by step, a resolution is approaching [and it] can contribute to ridding the nation’s prejudicial vision of Jeju Island.”
Although in practical terms, the national designation means the running of the memorial day events will be taken over by government, with significant additional funding, Kim also believes the change carries powerful symbolism with far-reaching consequences for victims and the bereaved.
“To the bereaved and victims, I think this is sure to foster self-esteem ... This is a required resolution measure ... to restore truth and honor,” said Kim.
There are now high hopes that the President will attend the memorial service on April 3 at the April 3 Peace Park, in Jeju City. Park would be only the second Korean president to visit the service, following Roh Moo-hyun in 2006, when a momentous official apology was issued.
“The president’s visit is a symbol of 4.3 resolution … As progressive and conservative ideological confrontation disappears, I believe this is a turning point toward a future of reconciliation and coexistence,” said Kim.
The director also believes that the legacy of 4.3 can now be lasting peace and human rights for the people of Jeju and Korea.
“By conceptualizing 4.3 as a gross violation of human rights, the people can reconsider the precious value of peace and human rights,” he said.
The full interview with Director Kim will be published in The Jeju Weekly next week.
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