Chairperson’s Message

Inaugural address by Koh Hee-bum, the 8th director of the Jeju 4·3 Peace Foundation

My fellow Jeju residents, victims of Jeju 4·3 and their bereaved families, and distinguished guests.

First of all, I pray that the spirits of those who lost their lives in the midst of the turbulence of Jeju 4·3 have been laid to eternal rest.

I also commiserate and give my deepest sympathies to the victims’ bereaved families who have endured more than 70 years of pain. It is my honor and privilege to serve as the director of the Jeju 4·3 Peace Foundation as I take the position with a heavy sense of responsibility. I am grateful for the devotion and efforts made by former directors Jang Jeong-eon, the late Kim Young-hoon, Lee Moon-gyo, and Yang Jo Hoon, who have striven to transform the foundation into a pivotal system to resolve Jeju 4·3 since its foundation.

My thanks also goes to President Moon Jae-in and those bipartisan National Assembly members who answered the long cherished desire of the victims’ families by revising the Jeju 4·3 Special Act to include clauses on government compensation for the victims. I extend my gratitude to the Association of the Bereaved Families of Jeju 4·3 Victims, civil societies nationwide, the Jeju provincial government, and Jeju residents for making joint endeavors for the statutory revision.

Looking back, we have shared valuable experiences where things seemingly impossible were miraculously achieved. All we could rely on was the truth of Jeju 4·3 and our ardent aspirations to reveal it. The people of Jeju, conscientious men and women, and civil societies across the nation supported us. The combined forces have bashed the daunting walls that delayed us from unearthing the truth of Jeju 4·3, while changing history in the process. I believe our efforts will continue to uncover the truth as long as we do not give up hope.

Accolades have been bestowed on Jeju 4·3 for symbolizing peace and human rights and being an exemplum virtutis for reconciliation and mutual prosperity. However, it remains questionable whether Jeju has become a symbolic region for peace and human rights and whether reconciliation and mutual prosperity have been materialized in our daily lives. So long as victims suffer from a heap of wrongful accusations, we will never be able to claim those accolades as ours. This shows us the path that the Jeju 4·3 Foundation should take going forward.

The subsequent investigation into the truth of Jeju 4·3, which will be added to the government’s final investigation report, is a critical task the foundation will put concerted efforts behind to complete. The foundation’s other critical task is to ensure that the process to resolve outstanding Jeju 4·3 issues will provide a driving force for the local community to take a step toward cohesion and future development, rather than igniting new conflicts. To accomplish the tasks assigned to the foundation, I am willing to communicate openly, make decisions with discretion, and take the path given to us by the community. I kindly ask you to join me in taking this path.

Here I stand today, as the director of the Jeju 4·3 Peace Foundation, to solemnly vow before the spirits of the Jeju 4·3 victims and every one of you to conduct the statutory duties of the foundation and to never forget the pure aspiration you have shown and sincere tears you have shed while working to disclose the truth of Jeju 4·3 and exonerate the victims’ honor. Without losing my initial determination, I will fulfill my mission.

Thank you.