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TravelJeju Travel
“Dark Tourism” Exploring Tragedies of Bygone Eras
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승인 2022.07.19  16:53:07
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The 25th of last month marked the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The traces of the Korean War, as well as the Japanese colonial occupation and the Jeju Uprising, continue to mark various locations across Jeju to this day.

In particular, Route 10 of the beautiful Olle Trail in the west of Jeju bear scars of tragedies that remain indelible despite the passage of time. This article introduces two key destinations for “dark tourism” in Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo-si.

1. Alddreu Airfield(알뜨르 비행장)

▲ Alddreu Airfield

Alddreu Airfield of Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo City is a destination along Route 10 of Olle Trail. Once used as a forward operating base for the Japanese military during Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea, the hangar that remains standing today provides a testimony for the circumstances at the time.

The name “alddreu” may sound closer to French than Korean, but it is an indigenous word meaning a wide field below a village. True to the name, the barley field that surrounds the airfield present a cinematic panorama.

However, unlike its beautiful scenery, the airfield embodies a painful history in which Jeju residents were forcibly mobilized for the military. It is the only WW2-era hangar to be preserved in its original state, and today, it is used as a military monument that demonstrates the Japanese military’s atrocity of forced labor.

▲ Alddreu Airfield

Although Jeju had long endeavored to memorialize this location as Jeju Peace Memorial Park, the Korean Ministry of Defense had requested an alternative site as it possesses ownership over the current site, thereby posing difficulties in reaching an agreement. Nonetheless, the change of direction in the discussion towards the free use of the site instead of transferring ownership resulted in the possibility of a breakthrough for the stalled project.

2. Seotal Oreum(섯알오름)

▲ Seotal Oreum

Seotal Oreum stands beside Alddreu Airfield, which bears the painful history of Japanese forced mobilization. Seotal Oreum was once used as an ammunition vault during the Japanese colonial occupation.

Following the liberation of Korea, the U.S. military detonated the site, demolishing the hill and leaving behind a crater. The location then became the site of an indiscriminate massacre under the pretense of preventive custody during the Korean War. “Preventive custody” refers to incidents in which the South Korean government preemptively apprehended and massacred innocent people for the possibility that they may collude with North Korea in the early days of the Korean War.

At the time, people involved with the April 3 Jeju Uprising were apprehended, while indiscriminate preventive custody resulted in massacres, including the one that took place at Seotal Oreum. Upon receiving the news that their family members had been executed by a firing squad, local residents headed up Seotal Oreum, but the bodies could not be recovered at the time and left untouched for six years.

▲ Seotal Oreum

Ultimately, the mix of numerous remains made it impossible to identify each individual, and the descendants of the victims built a monument named the Cemetery of Unnamed Korean War Victims, or “Baekjoilsonjimyo,” bearing the meaning of “one descendant under a hundred different ancestors.”

During Korea’s military dictatorship, the government had demolished the monument in an effort to cover up state violence, but the descendants of the victims continue to overcome the pain of the past and commemorate the spirits of the victims by holding a joint memorial service each year.

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