▲ Governor Won spoke of the three steps needed for peace at the 67th Jeju April 3 Memorial Day. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
As the fog hung across Jeju April 3 Peace Park, it reflected the weight of 67 years since April 3, 1948, when attacks on police stations triggered massacres by state forces across the island leaving up to 30,000 dead.
The officially recognized bereaved number almost 60,000, and many honored their loved ones by quietly paying their respects at the memorials around the park by laying flowers, offering food and sharing memories, as they do throughout the year.
The stage in front of the All Souls’ Altar was reserved for speeches from governmental representatives and special guests at the event billed as: “Beyond conflict and enmity toward an era of peace! To the future with a heart of peace!”
Although it was hoped on the 67th anniversary of Jeju 4.3 that Park Geun-hye would make her much anticipated appearance, she again opted to pay her respects by way of her prime minister, Lee Wan-koo. Roh Moo-hyun’s 2006 attendance, when he reiterated the official apology he first made in 2003, remains the only time a Korean premier has attended the event.
▲ Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo addressing the bereaved at Jeju April 3rd Peace Park. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
Prime Minister Lee nevertheless felt it was time to move forward into a new era of hope, “leaving behind the injuries from the past”
"In the future [the government] will continue to make utmost efforts to commemorate the victims and to console their bereaved families," he said.
He reminded the Jeju people of the government’s staunch efforts to restore the honor of victims. including the National Memorial Day designation, the Jeju April 3 Special Law, and the official investigation. He continued:
“I believe the spirit of forgiveness and integration that everyone in Jeju has shown will be the cornerstone of our future. This memorial day can not only provide the valuable momentum for Jeju to move forward as one community, but the whole of Korea.”
Jeju governor Won Hee-ryong, who had requested the president’s attendance, also took to the stage and he reiterated the historic importance of the president’s National Memorial Day designation last year.
▲ Mourners leave offerings for Jeju April 3 victims. Photo courtesy Jeju Sori
Echoing the rhetoric of the 65th anniversary two years ago, Won looked forward to the 70th anniversary in three years as a chance to “close a dark era.” In order for victims and perpetrators to “immerse themselves in a spirit of forgiveness, “Won pledged to designate an official provincial memorial period for reconciliation and laid out three essential steps in that direction.
Forgiveness and community spirit;
Implementation of the values of national unity and world peace;
Transmission of the lessons of 4.3 to future generations.
Won reminded the assembled that peace and human rights education had been made compulsory in provincial elementary, middle and high schools, which he hoped would help Jeju’s youth to “grow into future leaders for both national unity and peace in Northeast Asia.”
The province’s work towards April 3 reconciliation will also include ensuring support for victims and survivors is commensurate with the national memorial day designation, especially with regards to monetary support for living expenses and medical fees, and the building of a culture of reconciliation and coexistence.
In closing Won added:
"What has flown under the river cannot be undone. But so these waves finally flow into the ocean for global peace and national unity, we must join hands ever tighter.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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