Jeju provincial government announced at the 4.3 Special Committee of Jeju Provincial Assembly on Sept. 6, that it will fulfill its responsibility from next year to unearth the bodies of the victims of the Jeju Massacre that were buried in secret.
Bodies of massacre victims being unearthed and recorded after they were discovered in a mass grave at the Jeju International Airport in 2008. photo courtesy Yang Jo-hoon
It will also try to identify the remains of the victims through DNA analysis. Even almost 70 years after the 4.3 massacre occurred, the remains of around 300 bodies have yet to be identified.
The exhumation and identification of bodies of 4.3 victims started in 2006 and continued until 2010. Around 400 bodies were found, 71 of which were identified by the DNA analysis. And 384 bodies were discovered at the airport.
However, the exhumation and identification of bodies of the victims has been postponed since 2011 due to the lack of budget from the government.
384 bodies were found at the Jeju International Airport. Photo courtesy Yang, Jo-hoon
With a budget of 13 billion won secured this year, the exhumation will resume from January to December 2018 for one year in four areas of Jeju island. These areas include Jeju International Airport (south-north landing strips), Bukcheon, and Seonheul in Jeju-si, and Daejeong-eup in Seogwipo-si.
It is thought that around 200 bodies are still buried at Jeju International Airport while several more bodies are expected to be found in the other three areas.
Meanwhile, concerns are growing due to the fact that the south-north landing strip of the airport would need to be stopped in order for the project to be carried out.
Because of this, the Jeju government is now closely negotiating with related authorities such as Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and Korean Airports Corporation.
It is thought that around 200 bodies are still buried at Jeju International Airport . Photo courtesy Yang Jo-hoon
“No matter what challenges we face, the bodies and souls of 4.3 victims should not be trodden under the wheels of aircraft anymore. We need to push ahead boldly this time,” said Lee Gyong-yong, a member of Jeju provincial assembly at the Special Committee.
Between 1947 and 1954, an estimated 30,000 people died as state forces crushed what some have termed an uprising against injustice.
As the island’s population was at most 300,000 at the time, the official toll was one-tenth of the inhabitants.
Officially, 39,285 homes were demolished and more than half of the island’s villages destroyed, concentrated mostly around Mt. Hallasan. Of 400 villages, only 170 remained. Also, upwards of 4,000 more Jeju residents fled to Japan as the government sought to quell the uprising.
Photo courtesy Yang Jo-hoon
John Merrill, who in 1975 completed his master’s thesis on Jeju’s 4.3 massacre, wrote: “nowhere else did such a violent outpouring of popular opposition to a postwar occupation.”
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