On Jan. 17, 2019, the court admitted to the illegality of previous trials. The court dismissed the charges of 18 convicts, who had done time on a false charge because of being misunderstood as a part of a mob during “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre.” It was not until a formal trial that came 70 years later that the convicts could become cleared of the stigma of being commies.
However, thousands of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre convicts who did not recover the damaged reputation are already dead. Since this trial, an amendment of “the Special Act on the Jeju 4.3” is currently being reviewed. However, this Amendment has been pending in the National Assembly for more than a year since it was submitted in December, 2017. The Argus learns about the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre and seeks advice from Oh young-hun, a member of the National Assembly, who submitted the Amendment. Through the interview, The Argus wants to know the reasons why this amendment is needed and has not yet been ratified.
What is “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre”?
The Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre refers to the incident causing civilians’ sacrifices as a result of ideological conflicts in the Korean Peninsula. It began from March 1, 1947, passing April 3, 1948 to Sept. 21, 1954.
1) The Korean Peninsula in 1945
On Aug. 15, 1945, Korea regained its independence. Following liberation, the Korean Peninsula was divided by the two major powers with Soviet Union occupying the north and the United States occupying the south. The south was ruled by the U.S. military government for three years.
2) A loud shot was fired
On March 1, 1947, the ceremony to commemorate the March 1 Independence Movement was held in Jeju. As the people were marching toward Jeju Gwandeokjeong Pavilion, government office at that time in Jeju, a boy was trampled by the horse of a mounted police officer. The crowd was enraged when the police officer ignored the injured boy and some of them began chasing the mounted policeman and throwing stones. Police officers fired on the crowd from a watchtower. As a result, six civilians were killed as six more were injured. The police insisted that they acted in self-defense and started arresting the organizers of the March 1 Independence Movement ceremony. This only served to further infuriate residents of Jeju.
3) The armed uprising began at 2:00 a.m.
As part of the strong resistance and protest by the Jeju people, a general strike was called for March 10 to 22, 1947. The Jeju people demanded an apology from the police shooting during the March 1 ceremony. However, the U.S. army military government in Korea (USAMGIK) reacted in a manner opposite to what the people wanted, driving those who participated in the strike toward the communist forces in South Korea at that time, the South Korean labor party called “Namro party,” and designating Jeju an “Island of reds.” The USAMGIK supported the right-wing forces and concentrated on cracking down on left-wing individuals. Therefore, the USAMGIK began indiscriminately arresting and suppressing the people of Jeju people.
On April 3, 1948, at 2:00 a.m., the armed uprising led by the Namro party began, and 350 armed individuals raided 12 police stations and the houses of right-wing groups. Although it was led by the Namro party, the USAMGIK and police regarded the entire island as an enemy and strengthened its oppression.
4) 5 kilometers beyond the coast
The first election on May 10, which was being held unilaterally in the south and would constitute the formation of the Republic of Korea, came closer. The Namro party and many residents of Jeju did not participate in the vote, concerning about the division of the Korean Peninsula as the election was only being held in the south. Nevertheless, the Republic of Korea was formed on Aug. 15, 1948, and Rhee Syng-man became first president. The USAMGIK and President Rhee judged boycotting the ballot in Jeju as a conspiracy by impure forces that hampered the establishment of South Korea’s single government. The government announced that all land 5 kilometers beyond the coast was “hostile territory” and any individual entering the region “would be killed unconditionally” because the government believed that forces against them were hiding in the mountain.
5) The scorched earth policy started
On Nov. 17, the government declared martial law on Jeju and sent a punitive expedition into Jeju. The crackdown began in earnest. Not only most villagers living in the mid-region of Mount Halla but also villagers who went down to the coastal villages were killed indiscriminately by the punitive expedition. This merciless carnage continued unchecked.
6) A permanent scar of Jeju is still
As time passed by, the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre was officially concluded when the region of Mount Halla which nobody could enter was wholly opened on Sept. 21, 1954. Before the 14th President Kim Young-sam claimed to support democracy, the country was under military control. Therefore, the truth of the incident had been hidden under water for a long time until the President Kim government came to power.
What is “the Special Act on the Jeju 4.3”?
The aim of the Act is to promote additional fact clarification on the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre and restore the honor of the victims and their bereaved families.
Before President Kim Young-sam declared democracy, the military regime defined “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre” as a riot instigated by North Korea. The case was generally regarded as an incident caused by an ideological conflict. However, since the late 1980s, related books, testimonies, and research results about “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre” have been announced one after another. Fueled by getting to the root of “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre,” lawmakers of the governing and opposition parties submitted the “Special Act on the Jeju 4.3.” Eventually, this act was passed by Parliament in 2000.
According to this Act, the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre was defined as “lasting from March 1, 1947 to Sept. 21, 1954, an incident in which the residents were killed in a military clash and crackdown on Jeju. Also, a full-fledged investigation and selection of victims was carried out, and the dead victims were placed in the Jeju 4.3 peace park, and a support fund for medical treatment has been provided to those injured and disabled in the the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre.”
What is an “Amendment of the Special Act on the Jeju 4.3”?
The amendment bill of the Special Act on Jeju 4.3 aims to identify the truth of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre and to protect human rights and democracy by restoring the honor of related victims and their bereaved families. The following are the main articles included in the amendment.
· Clearly define the definition of the “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre” and specify the rights of victims and survivors.
· The military tribunals for persons who are actually ordinary citizens but listed as offenders are invalidated.
· Provide compensation for the victims and the persons determined to be survivors.
· Provide a community recovery program to heal wounds of victims and survivors, and establish and operate a “Jeju 4.3 trauma healing center.”
· No one should undermine the honor of the victims and the bereaved family by negating or distorting the truth of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre, and they should be punished if they violate it.
Oh Young-hun, a member of the National Assembly, gave some insight into the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre. He initiated the amendment of the Special Act on the Jeju 4.3 in 2017 to the National Assembly as a representative of Jeju Island. So far, he has been trying to pass the amendment of the National Assembly, and also trying to inform the citizens of the actual situation of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre through various activities.
The Argus: What is the purpose of revising the Special Act on Jeju 4.3?
Oh young-hun (Oh): Based on the “the Special Act on Jeju 4.3,” the truth about the victims and their families is being clarified. However, there is a lack of progress in their compensation and honor recovery. Those who were victimized at the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre by public power still have wounds and suffer from trauma. The initiative for which I made an amendment is to provide a legal basis for the compensation for the victims and the bereaved families. Also, it was made for the invalidation of the military tribunals.
The Argus: What do you think the key problem is with the definition of the “The Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre”?
Oh: This is a case of sacrifice by ordinary citizens of Jeju Island starting from March 1, 1947. This extended including the incidents of April 3, 1948 and lasted until Sept. 22, 1954. During that time, there were many armed conflicts and repressions in Jeju Island.
However, I think it is necessary to define the reason why these processes happened and by whom. According to the facts investigated so far, the police and a northwestern youth group were revealed as the attackers. Therefore, we need to write down more specifics about these facts.
The Argus: In the amendment, there is an article for the payment of compensation. Why have you added this article to the revision?
Oh: Current laws have limitations in that they consistently give support funds to the victims. The funds are necessary for receiving medical and life support for those who need nursing or supplementary equipment. Compensation is the first step toward healing the past and restoring the value of life. Furthermore, it is a means of reconciliation to the person and community. Therefore, payment of compensation is a national obligation.
The Argus: In the amendment, there is an article of invalidation of past military tribunals. Could you tell us more about the nullification of a military trial?
Oh: The Jeju 4.3 illegal military trial, which happened 70 years ago, had no petition for appeal, a protocol of trial and a ruling from the trial. In other words, it was an illegal trial without legal procedures. The only remaining related record is the list of prisoners found in 1999. The only things listed here are names of convicts, their addresses and sentences. However, the problem is not only that they were sentenced to punishment, but when the Korean War became imminent, all the prisoners were shot. Even though some of them survived luckily, there is the problem that the prisoners had never acknowledged their sins and had to go into prison for their charges. Therefore, we should dismiss the trial itself. I would like to clarify this in the amendment, to expand the reason for the appeal against the victims who were unjustly convicted in the case.
The Argus: What kind of attitude should the judiciary have when dealing with the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre?
Oh: Since the government has decided that the victims of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre are official victims of national violence, the judiciary should also show a positive attitude to make compensation possible. In addition, on May 17, 2019, a district court of Jeju Island will lay down the first verdict that appeals in illegal military tribunal at that time to be dismissed. I think the justice department should also vote yes on the nullification of illegal military trials.
The Argus: There is an article about education on the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre and the history of that event in the amendments. Then what is the problem of the current education on the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre and a feasible solution to that?
Oh: From January 2018 to January 2019, we conducted a survey about the recognition of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre on a national scale, with 2,096 people reporting from approximately 100 elementary, middle, high schools and 40 NGOs. As a result, more than 23 percent of respondents said they totally did not know about the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre. I felt sorry about the result because it seemed like history has not been well passed down through the generations over time. It was violence by the state that sacrificed over 10 percent of Jeju Island people at that time. Therefore, I think that a lot of national education and publicity activities related to the case are needed.
The Argus: Why has the legislation still been unable to pass after the amendment was initiated in 2017?
Oh: Currently, the opposition party seems to be sensitive to the “Special Act on Jeju 4.3” because of the past history issues. Also, there are some attempts that devastates this issue using the ideological offensive. Therefore, the discussion is slow. I also think that the government will be burdened with compensation at some level. Recently, however, the opposition parties have voiced their intention to keep an eye on the revision bill of the “Special Act on Jeju 4.3” carefully. In 1999, the Special Act was made by the consultation between the ruling party and the opposition. Therefore, I expect we could make good discussions like in 1999, if we fully examine the purpose and reasons for enactment.
The Argus: What should students remember about the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre?
Oh: The Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre is one of the tragedies of our modern history. A perspective based on incorrect historical facts can further injure the victims. I hope that college students will become more interested in our modern history. Moreover, please stay abreast of what is happening in society now. Because of the nature of HUFS, there are many opportunities for students to inform the world about Korea, so I would like to have more Korean students interested in the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre and enlighten many other students in the world about it in various languages.
“Everyone, a new spring is on the way to Jeju Island.” President Moon Jae-in addressed the public with these word at the 70th anniversary memorial service for victims of the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre. In order for the complete spring to come to Jeju, more accurate fact finding about the incident and active restoration of honor for the victims will have to be done. “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre” is a heartbreaking part of Korean history that should never be forgotten, and it is our grandparents, our uncles, our friends, our very story. Therefore, in order to fully resolve “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre,” we also need to have a clear understanding of that case and give it great attention. The readers of The Argus should think about how to stand on “the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre.”
By Kim Tae-young and Oh Ju-yeong
Associate Editor & Staff Reporter of
Global & National Section