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Understanding and remembering 4.3.The 4.3 tour, led by Poet Kim Kyeong-hoon, told the story of Namwon-eup
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승인 2018.04.16  11:18:06
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▲ Photo by Jia Min Tan

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of Jeju 4.3. As surviving victims and bereaved families age, the struggle against the loss of the memory of 4.3 grows more urgent with each passing day. This is even more so when considering the long history of oppressed silence regarding the massacre.

During the year of the 70th anniversary, there has been an effort to push for a greater understanding about what happened, for the restoration of the honor of the victims, and to let more people know about 4.3. By doing this, it is hoped that what happened may be remembered for a long time.

Many related events were organized all over the island in the month leading up to the anniversary. One of the events was a walking tour of sites related to 4.3 in Namwon-eup. The tour was led by the poet Kim Kyeong-hoon.

The first stop on the tour was Euigwi Elementary School. From Dec 26, 1948 to Jan 20, 1949 the 2nd Regiment 1st Battalion 2nd Company was stationed here.

▲ Photo by Jia Min Tan

When the punitive expedition started, the 2nd Company combed the forests and caves in the area, searching for islanders who were hiding. When they found people, they shot them on sight. Injured or captured citizens were imprisoned in the school building.

Four soldiers of the 2nd Company died in an ambush by guerrilla forces on Jan 12, 1949. In retaliation, the soldiers shot the dozens of residents that were imprisoned in the school grounds.

Among the gravestones at the historical site, Poet Kim pointed out one inscribed with the names of the four dead soldiers. In a time of dark history, everyone is a victim of ideological conflict. This is regardless of whether they are a soldier, rebel, or citizen.

During the tour, Poet Kim recited his poem “Noru Oreum” before the tombstones. As he did so, crows in the air cawed fittingly when he read the lines, “The few crows who had watched over the historical site looked at me, and they seemed to be whispering something amongst themselves.”

▲ Photo by Jia Min Tan

The number of rebels who died in that attack outnumbered the soldiers. They were collectively buried at Songryeongi Cave, not far off from the school. In front of the cave, Kim invited three of the participants at the tour to give a recital of his poem, “A family history of the winter.” This ended up being a haunting recital.

“Hyung(Brother)! When are you coming back? Hyung!”

“Oh mother, what is this? Mother, say something! … Mother, I will avenge you! I saw those bastards’ faces clearly, when I grow up I will return to them what they did today! Oh mother, how am I going to live alone now without mother nor brother? … Oh mother, what do I do? Get away, crows! Get away, get away! It’s my mother, don’t come near…”

We stood before the cave and listened to the words echoing off the stone walls. In the poem, the older brother reassures his younger brother that he will be back and tells his mother not to worry. Later, the mother hopes for her eldest son’s survival and tells her younger son to escape to Japan. The younger son cries out in helplessness and grief. As we listened to the poem, it felt as if we had traveled through time and were with them, listening to their cries of suffering.

▲ Photo by Jia Min Tan

Seventy years have passed since 4.3. The truth becomes harder to uncover and the suffering of the victims risks being forgotten under the covers of time. Poets, writers, and artists do what they can to preserve those memories in their work. Through this art, we are able to approach the incident, understand it, and come to remember it.

In a video that was being played in the exhibition hall at the Hyeonui Grave Site, a person said, “We can forgive them, but we cannot forget.”

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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