Sunday, March 11, 2018

April 3, 1948 Jejudo Massacre

The Catholic Times has another article and editorial on the Jejudo April 3rd 1948(4-3) massacre that happened 70 years ago. At the end of last month, a symposium in Seoul reinterpreted the Jejudo 4-3 incident with Christian eyes.

Theodor Adorno a German philosopher, who experienced the two World Wars, said the German Nazi massacre of the Jews was something unthinkable beyond the unthinkable. Jeju 4-3 was a historical tragedy in which more than 10% of the population was indiscriminately massacred. It was called the Auschwitz after Auschwitz.

The difference between Auschwitz and Jejudo is that the former is remembered and helped humanity, hopefully, to grow in wisdom while the later remains a history to be erased from the mind.What are we being told about  Jeju-do?

Bishop Kang of Jeju-do gave the keynote speech at the symposium. He spoke about the meaning of the tragedy seeing it from a social and theological point of view—the biblical tradition. It is not simply an incident in Korean history nor do we need to identify social responsibility.

After the defeat of Japanese imperialism in the Second World War, many of the Koreans living in Japan within a short period of time returned to Jejudo. 70,000 returned, although others came from other countries most came from Japan.

These new members of Jejudo society had a stronger national consciousness than the ones who lived in Jejudo and a great desire for the restoration of their homeland. However, what awaited them was political, economic and social unrest stemming from the policies and mistakes of the US military government. One of the big issues was reinstating the police officers and personnel who had been leaders when they were under Japanese occupation.The residents felt betrayed that it was an extension of Japanese rule instead of hope for a new era.

The armed uprising that took place on April 3,1948 was the South Korean Worker's Party with many hundreds of members whose expectation were also the hope of all those on the island: freedom,  independence, resistance to the evil structures in society and corruption.

The bishop compared this to the salvation history of the Jewish people. The history of suffering the journey to seek dignity: the response of God in man. 4-3 was not an accident but a deliberate act in search of human liberation from all sorts of social evils and injustices. The insurrection was against efforts to hinder and stop this movement towards freedom and independence. 

Although efforts were made by the government to ascertain the truth and some compensations made, the causes of the ideological confrontation and conflict are still not healed. Forgiveness and tolerance are important. More important may be to reclaim the evangelical value of Jejudo 4-3 and sublimate it in a Christian life: What are you citizens of Jejudo to do?