Here’s a subject I haven’t written about before: The Jeju 4.3 Uprising or Massacre. I’ve had opportunities but didn’t know where to start; I still don’t understand it well. What is clear is that many thousands of Jeju people were killed in fighting or were summarily executed by the South Korean authorities, many dumped in unmarked graves. The reason? The real or perceived threat of communist sympathisers on Jeju in the uncertain years after the Japanese had left after the Second World War, when the division of the Korean Peninsular was becoming a long-term reality. ‘4.3’ refers to April 3rd, 1948, the nominal date of the start of the Uprising, which lasted until May 1949.
The photo above is taken on the north coast of the island, just a few kilometres east of Jeju City. The background shows a typical modern Jeju settlement; the foreground shows the remains of the site of Goneul-dong village, as does the photo below. I can do no better than quote from the notice erected to record the site:
Goneul-dong was located in the west coast of Hwabuk 1-dong, Jeju City. Before the April Third Uprising, in ‘Inside Goneul’ at the east bottom of Byeoldo Peak, there were 22 dwellings, in ‘Middle Goneul’ located between the two branches of Hwabuk Stream, 17 dwellings, and in ‘Outside Goneul’, 28 dwellings.
On January 4 and 5, 1949, Goneul-dong was put to the torch and has been deserted since. Around 3-4 p.m. on January 4, 1949, one platoon from the 2nd Regiment of Korean Constabulary laid siege to Goneul-dong. They rounded up all the villagers. They took approximately 10 young men to the coast and executed them. Then, they set fire to all 22 dwellings in Inside Goneul and all 17 dwellings in Middle Goneul.
On January 5, soldiers killed some villagers who were confined in nearby Hwabuk Elementary School at ‘Mosalbul’, on the east coast of Hwabuk-dong. Then, they burned all 28 dwellings in Outside Goneul. Since then, Goneul-dong has been deserted.
And according to Wikipedia, “For almost fifty years after the uprising, it was a crime punishable by beatings, torture and a lengthy prison sentence if any South Korean even mentioned the events of the Jeju uprising.”