Visitors can now walk through the abandoned village at its picturesque spot on the northern Jeju coast. Stonewalls continue to enclose fields and remains of houses can be found. Photo by Eric Hevesy (Facebook: Eric Hevesy Photography / firstname.lastname@example.org)
This piece was written by Darren Southcott with photography by Eric Hevesy
People once lived on the sides of this steep headland. They built their homes here. They married here. They died here.
In late 1948 the 76-household-strong community of Goneuldong just west of Hwabuk, Jeju City, was split into three: Gaundet Goneul at center, An Goneul in the west, and Dong Goneul (or Bat Goneul) to the east.
Jeju 4.3 was at its height, a state-led massacre of up to 30,000 islanders between 1947 and 1954 under the pretext of suppressing a communist insurgency.
Now deserted, the village was once home to a thriving community. Photo by Eric Hevesy (Facebook: Eric Hevesy Photography / email@example.com)
By January 1949, all that was left were the charred remains of homes and bullet-ridden bodies.
It was on Jan 4, 1949, the same day Brigadier Ham Byeong-seon of the 2nd Division had requested an extension of martial law on the island, that a 42-strong platoon laid siege to the village.
From around 3pm, government forces moved from house to house, forcibly removing villagers to the coast, where 10 were immediately executed by firing squad.
The soldiers doused the thatched roofs and sacks of barley with oil found hanging in people’s homes. The winds quickly fanned the flames and burned An Goneul and Gaundet Goneul to the ground.
The next day, Jan 5, the villagers still held at Hwabuk Elementary School were removed to the local “Yeondemit,” one of Jeju’s unique Joseon-era coastal defense structures. All 12 were swiftly executed. Their homes at Dong Goneul were torched.
The official Jeju 4.3 investigation says 23 died in the attack, as “the Punitive Force shot the villagers of Goneul-dong to death, taking 2 days.”
The village never recovered.
Around the April 3 anniversary the fields bloom with spring flowers, giving added poignancy to the site of massacre. Photo by The Eric Hevesy (Facebook: Eric Hevesy Photography / firstname.lastname@example.org)
An island-wide story
Goneuldong is not alone. As many as 84 villages were thus destroyed during Jeju 4.3, but most were upland “jungsangan” villages, ostensibly razed to punish villagers for aiding “insurgents” sheltering on Mt. Hallasan.
Why, then, was ruin brought to coastal Goneuldong?
According to local residents, the punitive actions were in response to an attack on military vehicles in nearby Hwabuk. An assailant (not a local and probably seeking shelter on nearby Byeoldobong Peak) fled towards Goneuldong, thus damning it as an “insurgent village.”
In 2009, as the site was cleared of weeds, untouched millstones were uncovered just as they had been left six decades earlier. A spring and pond were also found, as were “doldam,” or stonewalls, enclosing the original “olle,” paths leading between houses.
Today the site is still dissected by olle, chiefly Jeju Olle 19. There is also a stone memorial telling the massacre’s tragic tale.
The memorial, however, was opposed by some villagers, and it has been vandalized in the past. They dispute the official account, insisting even more people were slaughtered on those winter days in 1949.
Olle 18 now runs through the village in what is a tranquil spot just outside Jeju City. Photo by The Eric Hevesy (Facebook: Eric Hevesy Photography / email@example.com)
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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