▲ Participants commemorating the events of the April 3 massacres at the 4.3 Peace Park in Seogwipo. Photo by Kang Jae Yoon
April 3 dawned bright and clear, perhaps not suitable weather for those who gathered at the 4.3 Peace Park to commemorate a much darker day many years earlier. The date marks a tragic time in Jeju’s history and the second-largest massacre in the history of modern Korea.
From many directions, hundreds of people made their way through a field to the memorial hall. Signs of remembrance were everywhere and families stood in silence before names carved in marble. An elderly woman placed a flower against the wall of victims, as pairs of eyes searched among the thousands for their loved ones’ names, which fingers then touched upon the black stone.
It has been almost 60 years since the tragic conclusion of the uprising on Jeju Island, but only in the past decade have families of victims been allowed to publicly mourn the dead. It was only as recently as January 2000 that the Korean government passed a special act to further investigate the circum-stances and events surrounding the April 3 incident.
An initial report by the National Commission on the Jeju April 3 incident concluded that nearly 40,000 homes were destroyed and more than half of the island’s villages left in ruins, with an estimated death toll of 25,000 to 30,000 people. Some believe that more than that died and just two years ago, a mass grave site was uncovered near Jeju’s international airport.
Jang Jung Eon, director of the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation, speaking at the commemoration, said, “For the last years, we have been com-mitted to holding a number of activities to comfort the bereaved families and restore the honor of the victims. Still efforts to discover the bodies of the missing are being made.”
▲ Visitors searching for names at Memorial Hall in the 4.3 Peace Park during the April 3rd commemoration. Photo by Justin Nalepa
He added that 3,429 tombstones had been erected at the Peace Park to honor those who went missing during the incident.
Other events to mark the April 3 anniversary included a photo exhibition, a youth peace festival, shamanistic rituals and a peace concert.
In his address, Jeju Governor Kim Tae Hwan said that further investigation and identification of the 4.3 victims and their families would continue and be followed by the establishment of scholarships in the names of those who died.
“The scars of the Jeju people should be healed, the dichotomy of dividing victims and perpetrators should disappear, and ideological conflicts should be resolved,” he said.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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