The massacre in Jeju Island 70 years ago should be revealed

Dr. Heo Ho Joon
Dr. Heo, Ho Joon

The people of Jeju Island are still expecting an apology from the government of South Korea for the death of approximately 30,000 islanders who were against the first election that formed the Republic of Korea in the South in 1948.

The Hankyoreh journalist, Dr. Heo, Ho Joon said the truth must be revealed and the people are still waiting for the government to make an apology over the massacre that happened in the island 70 years ago. Unfortunately, this issue has been neglected.

“The old generation preferred the north and south Korea to be reunified as one country. Unfortunately, the younger generation is not interested in the past and this is our dilemma.

“The young people should learn and know about our values and highlight peace for reunification,” he added.

Participants of the International Journalists Conference 2018 at Memorial Altar on the Jeju Peace Tour recently.
Participants of the International Journalists Conference 2018, at Memorial Altar, on the Jeju Peace Tour recently.

Asked whether the reunification will materialize, Ho Joon said, this is a long-term goal and now is a good starting point. However, for reunification, both the North and South Korea have to stabilize their systems.

“I think reunification could happen as the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather was from Jeju Island. During the Japanese colonization, his daughter went to stay in North Korea.

“The Jeju Island people wanted the north and the south to be one nation in 1948 after 35 years of Japanese colonization,” he said to some International Journalists Conference participants at the April 3rd Peace Park in Jeju Island recently.     

Ho Joon added, after the establishment of South Korean government in August 1948, the United States (US) still held the operational control over the Korean Constabulary by South Korea-US Military Accord.

On October 1948, the 9th Regimental Commander of the Korean Constabulary issued a decree that anyone who is in 5 kilometers inland from the seashore will be regarded as rioter or rebel and be shot dead. One month later President Rhee declared a martial law.

“On January 1949, the Korean soldiers slaughtered about 300 villagers a day and on October 1949, 249 inmates were executed at the Jeju airfield by the approval of President Rhee. It was an unprecedented massacre and Jeju Island international airport was then the execution ground,” he said.

Ho Joon said, he collected the information about the resistance of the people and the massacre in Jeju Island when he did his Ph.D. research, “Comparing “Greek Civil War in 1940 and Jeju Island” at Jeju National University, 10 years ago.

He also mentioned, Jeju 4.3 remained a tremendous effect on Jeju community. According to the 4.3 Fact Finding Report, it was estimated that 25,000-30,000 were killed.

“More than 100 villages were destroyed. The survivors and their children had suffered from the involvement system and Red Complex. They were labeled as the Reds or Red’s children,” he added.   

The Korean government enacted the Jeju 4.3 Special Law and was defined as the incident causing tremendous victims in the process of armed conflicts and suppressive operations. This tragic incident lasted for seven years and seven months.

During the Korean War, about 2,500 islanders who were jailed in the mainland never came back and on September 1954, Jeju 4.3 incident ended with lifting the prohibition area of Mt. Halla. 

After the democratization of Korean Society in 1987, the movement to find the truth has been launched in the year 2000. Jeju 4.3 Special Law was enacted and in 2008, 4.3 Peace Park was constructed.

Nevertheless today, Jeju Island is one of the favorite holiday destinations in South Korea and is well known for its beautiful beaches and mountains. However, not many people are aware that the beautiful island was once covered with blood.

“The April 3rd Uprising and Massacre” is a tragic series of incidents that happened between 1 March 1947 and 21 September 1954 on Jeju Island. It was a chaotic period right after the independence from Japan and the Korean Peninsula was entering into the Cold War era.

Some people including the first president of South Korea and the US government wanted to establish a government in South Korea separate from the North while others wanted to establish a unified country with the North.

Jeju islanders courageously stood up against the division of the Korean peninsula and strongly protested against the first election that formed the Republic of Korea in the South in 1948.

Unfortunately, military and police officers severely cracked down on Jeju Islanders and approximately 30,000 people (10% of Jeju’s total population) lost their lives during this period.

_Malaysia World News       

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