▲ A group of students visiting the Jeju April 3rd Peace Park, where many learn the island’s dark history for the first time. Photo courtesy Jeju April 3rd Peace Park
A photo of an elderly woman’s face covered in bandages from the top of her head to her chin hangs on one wall. The image is black and white and represents the story of a survivor of a 60-year-old massacre. The woman in the picture died five years ago of old age while wearing a similar bandage - new cloth covering an old wound and the story that went with it. She lost her jaw, but many other people in the photos surrounding hers lost their lives. The choice of black and white for the pictures seems to signify the purpose for which the photos hang; dark times being brought to light, freely, for the first time in more than half a century.
In 2008, the Jeju April 3rd Peace Park opened to remind the world of what occurred on the island of Jeju and should never happen again - an attempted genocide committed by the very people who had promised to protect the populace. The dark history is referred to as the 4.3 massacre, when about 10 percent of the island’s residents were killed, according to researchers at the park.
The Jeju Special Self-Governing Province is promoting a new form of tourism that offers outsiders and locals the opportunity to get acquainted with these dark histories, in a concept known as dark tourism. The Turn to Tourism, page 10 Tourism, cont. from page 2 University of Central Lancashire is currently coordinating academic research on the concept and defines it as such: “Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme.”
People have been visiting sites of dark historical events for years, such as the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland.
▲ Walls displaying the names of known victims of the April 3 Uprising, in which 10 percent of Jeju residents were believed to be killed.
A 2008 article from The Globe and Mail newspaper quoted University of Central Lancashire professor Philip Stone: “There are strange scenes like this around the world today, as tour buses keep rolling in to sites associated with death and suffering: the Killing Fields of Cambodia, New York’s ground zero, the genocide memorials in Rwanda and Nazi death camps in Central Europe ... many travelers - even those with no family connections to the soldiers who fought there - will also visit memorials to the dead near European battlefields of the First and Second World Wars. These visitors have mixed motives: to remember and pay tribute, out of patriotism or just to see what they have seen in the movies.”
Oh Seung Kook is the lead researcher at the Peace Park and said that the number of tourists to the museum, which opened in March 2008, has significantly increased in the last year. The importance of the visits is not in the numbers, though, but in the fact that merely 10 years ago mentioning the massacre was taboo.
Information on the walls of the museum detail poets, journalists and other concerned citizens being harassed by police for mentioning the events. According to Oh, approximately 20 years ago hundreds of bodies were found on the island from the time of the massacre, and those bodies were thrown into the ocean or burned by the government in order to keep the tragedy in the past. The names of those individuals and the family members were left without closure.
The provincial government is now asking people to remember the tragedies of the island and has marked several locations as major historic sites. According to online news portal mysinchew.com, the province plans to invest a total of 10 billion won ($11 million) in the project by 2015.
Oh said that few people know that the international airport was built on an old Japanese bunker. The government plans to promote sites such as this as well as the 4.3 Peace Park, the Seotal Oreum Massacre Site and the Jeju Japan Resistance Memorial.
Inside the 4.3 Peace Park is a replica of a cave, as during the massacre natural caves around the island served as refuges for residents. At the back of the cave a blank tombstone lies on its side. Kook said the stone will be stood upright and inscribed with the names of 4.3 massacre victims when a genuine resolution has been reached.
At the far end of the indoor section of the park, students have left comments clipped to wires hung on a wall. Most indicate the writer’s complete ignorance of the tragedy before visiting the park. A small piece of paper with a picture of a child praying reads, “I never knew of this before. Peace and rest.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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