Surviving victims and bereaved families of the 1948 Jeju April 3 Incident, residents of Jeju-do Province,
The April 3 Incident is a deep sorrow for Jeju. It brings not only grief to this island but also immense pain to the modern history of the Republic of Korea.
Jeju envisioned a genuine independence beyond liberation and aspired to peace and unification that transcended the nation’s division. Jeju residents were only trying to preserve national pride and to rebuild the reclaimed nation in its entirety.
However, Jeju suffered horrible deaths for having envisioned such dreams before anyone else. Its ardent demand for establishing a unified government brought blowback, becoming an ideological trap dividing us.
As we still dream of peace and unification and intend to achieve reconciliation and unity, we should share in Jeju’s sorrow.
We must go back to square one of the Jeju April 3 Incident and lay bare what was fabricated, what brought us under the yoke and what led to the deaths on Jeju at the sites of massacres on that day.
Only when we begin to rewrite such chapters in our modern history in this way will the pain of Jeju be truly healed and will we be able to free ourselves from the hostility and confrontation that have plagued us for the past 72 years.
I hope that the Jeju, which fell like camellia flowers for the sake of peace, will resurge as a Jeju that will make peace complete. The value placed on human rights, reconciliation and unity left behind by the victims is deeply engraved into my heart.
I pray for the repose of the spirits of April 3 Incident victims who lost their lives to state violence and ideology. I offer my gratitude and respect to the bereaved families and Jeju residents who prevailed over a time of suffering and helped make Jeju what it is today.
Fellow Koreans and Jeju residents,
We are observing the anniversary of the April 3 Incident once again at a very grave and difficult time when we must overcome the COVID-19 outbreak. Keenly sensing the power of solidarity and cooperation, we are reaffirming how strong that power is making us.
Even though the April 3 Incident has been distorted and shunned, it has unceasingly paved the way for reconciliation and healing. The Association of Bereaved Families of April 3 Incident Victims and the Jeju Police Veterans Association announced their reconciliation in 2013 and have been holding alternate events each year to pay tribute at the Loyal Dead Cemetery and the Jeju 4‧3 Peace Park.
Last year, members of the armed forces and the police stood before the souls of the April 3 Incident victims. They made an official apology to the innocent victims of Jeju and their surviving relatives. They also promised to join in efforts to restore the honor of the April 3 Incident and heal the wounds. The bereaved families and Jeju residents also held their hands in reconciliation and mutual support.
The spirit of reconciliation and mutual benefit is bringing the hearts of Jeju residents together as one even amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
Jeju-do has launched its “protecting our neighborhoods ourselves” campaign, and 60 organizations from 43 towns, townships and villages are carrying out infectious disease prevention and control activities at as many as 27,000 public facilities.
The Saemaul Female Leaders’ Association and a volunteer service center made face masks and gave them out to neighbors and local communities. The Society for a Better Tomorrow and the provincial youth association made portable hand sanitizers on their own and parceled them out to provincial residents.
Jeju residents are sharing the pain felt by people across the country, beyond their own region. They delivered face masks and other supplies as well as charitable donations to Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Voluntary infectious disease prevention and control activities by Jeju residents have set such an example of private-public cooperation that Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Incheon, Naju, Busan, Ulsan and other local governments have sought to learn from and emulate them. I am deeply grateful to the residents of Jeju for taking the lead and demonstrating the power of solidarity and cooperation in trying times.
The resolution of the April 3 Incident issue is by no means a matter of politics or ideology. It is purely a matter of common sense and humane attitudes, which show empathy for the pain of neighbors and respect for people. This is the path to “justice and reconciliation” to settle past wrongs that trampled on human rights and life and to heal wounds in accordance with internationally established universal standards.
As President, I pledge to do my best to ensure that the Jeju April 3 Incident blossoms fully to represent universal human values: reconciliation, mutual benefit, peace and human rights.
Fellow citizens and residents of Jeju-do,
Truth is the foundation for forgiveness and reconciliation. It also constitutes the power to heal wounds caused by ideology-driven hostilities.
In March this year, the first volume of a supplementary investigation report was published 16 years after the release of the Jeju 4•3 Incident Investigation Report. The new report recorded massacres, the disappearance of those imprisoned, preemptive arrests and the results of the exhumation of victims’ remains as well as village-specific damage. It shed light on the harm done to the educational community and students as well as accurately investigated the damage to soldiers, police officers and right-wing organizations. I extend my gratitude to the Jeju 4•3 Peace Foundation and related officials for their hard work to uncover the truth.
This year’s high school Korean history textbook carries a longer and more-detailed description of the Jeju April 3 Incident. It clearly states that the April 3 Incident is about “the sacrifice of civilians by state authorities” and describes the state’s mobilization of violent means during its crackdowns. It is truly meaningful that the textbook also contains the efforts of Jeju residents to shed light on the truth and the spirit of reconciliation and mutual benefit.
Jeju is now no longer lonely. The truth and sadness surrounding the April 3 Incident and endeavors for reconciliation and mutual benefit will be passed down to and remembered by our future generations, and this will serve as a compass for human rights, life, peace and unity for those generations heading for a better world.
It is the country’s obligation to embrace the agony of the victims of the Jeju April 3 Incident and bereaved families and restore their lives and honor upon the foundation of truth.
Truth can lead to reconciliation and mutual benefit only when it meets justice. It is imperative for a nation to establish truth not only as historical justice but also as legal justice.
Providing relief for those unjustly victimized goes to the heart of why a nation exists.
The bill to revise the Special Act on Discovering the Truth of the Jeju 4.3 Incident and the Restoration of Honor of Victims includes the issues of reparations and compensation that constitute the foundation for a complete settlement of the Jeju April 3 Incident, but it is still pending in the National Assembly.
Concerning the Jeju April 3 Incident, some victims have received only partial reparations through individual lawsuits or government funds for medical treatment and living expenses. However, statutory reparations and compensation have yet to be made. As President, I truly feel heavy-hearted about the slow pace.
Still, the April 3 Incident is moving forward toward legal justice as well step by step. Last year, 18 surviving former prisoners won both a retrial and criminal compensation trial that they had initiated. Their claim stated that they had been unjustly tried by a military court. In Courtroom No. 201 of the Jeju District Court, acclamations erupted, “We are now innocent!” Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, who is with us today, found a list of prisoners related to the April 3 Incident in the National Archives while serving as a lawmaker, and this list was ultimately used to prove their innocence.
In the past year, Hyun Chang-yong, Kim Gyeong-in, Kim Sun-hwa and Song Seok-jin, elders among the former prisoners, passed away. However, the country has still yet to fulfill its most important duty and responsibility for the surviving victims and bereaved relatives.
Not only the surviving victims but also the first-generation of bereaved relatives have already passed the age of 70, and the witnesses who remember the situation at that time are also at advanced ages. Under these circumstances, there is no longer any time for delays.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We are facing difficulties as our history has had many painful chapters in the process leading from liberation to division and war that we must resolve and overcome. We will, however, continue to make efforts to ensure that practical reparations and compensation are realized as fundamental justice while the victims and bereaved relatives are still alive. I ask for special consideration and support from politicians and the National Assembly to revise the Jeju 4•3 Special Act. In addition to these legislative efforts, the Government will promptly act accordingly.
In 2018, the Government resumed the previously suspended registration project for April 3 Incident victims and bereaved families. The Committee on Discovering the Truth of the Jeju April 3 Incident and the Restoration of Honor of the Victims approved 90 previously unregistered victims and 7,606 of their bereaved relatives after reviewing new reports filed during the sixth registration period. Most of all, it is very significant that Song Jeong-sun became the first recognized sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder among the April 3 Incident victims after she acquired PTSD from witnessing her father being killed.
We will provide opportunities for additional reports so that not a single victim is omitted from the registration going forward. We will also continue to provide support for excavating remains and identifying DNA in order to return the remains to their respective relatives.
The April 3 Incident Trauma Center will begin a trial operation from this April to heal the wounds and pain of the surviving victims and bereaved relatives. We will provide full support so that Jeju residents can bring closure to the pent-up agony in their hearts and cast off that yoke. When the related bills are enacted, we will make preparations to upgrade it to a national disaster trauma center.
April 3 Incident surviving victims, bereaved relatives and fellow Koreans,
The April 3 Incident is our past and our future. The Korean people’s efforts for reconciliation and peace began on the day of the April 3 Incident. The dream Jeju once dreamed is our dream today.
Sorrow has remained as persistent as the falling of camellia flowers, but we have what we have today because we’ve endured sorrow. I will not say yet that the time has come to forget the sorrow. I would like to say instead that amidst the sorrow, we should jointly herald the tomorrow that Jeju had dreamt of.
The Government will move forward step by step toward reconciliation, mutual benefit, peace and human rights together with the residents of Jeju, bereaved relatives and the people.
The stories of truth, justice and reconciliation that began from the April 3 Incident will remain for our descendants a touching history of recovering hope amidst sorrow.