Goneuldong: The massacre that reached the sea
People once lived on the sides of this steep headland. They built their homes here. They married here. They died here.
In late 1948, the 76-household-strong community of Goneuldong just west of Hwabuk, Jeju City, was split into three: Gaundet Goneul at the center, An Goneul to the west, and Dong Goneul (or Bat Goneul) to the east.
By January 1949, all that was left were the charred remains of homes and bullet-ridden bodies.
It was on Jan. 4, 1949, the same day Brigadier Ham Byeong-seon of the 2nd Division had requested an extension of martial law on the island, that a 42-strong platoon laid siege to the village.
According to the official 4·3 investigation report, from around 3 p.m., government forces moved from house to house, forcibly removing villagers to the coast, where 10 were immediately executed by firing squad.
The soldiers doused the thatched roofs and sacks of barley with oil found hanging in people’s homes. The winds quickly fanned the flames and burned An Goneul and Gaundet Goneul to the ground.
The next day, Jan. 5, the villagers still held at Hwabuk Elementary School were removed to the local “Yeondemit,” one of Jeju’s unique Joseon-era coastal defense structures. All 12 were swiftly executed. Their homes at Dong Goneul were torched.
The official Jeju 4·3 investigation says 23 died in the attack, as “the Punitive Force shot the villagers of Goneul-dong to death, taking 2 days.”
The village never recovered.
An island-wide story
Goneuldong is not alone. As many as 84 villages were thus destroyed during Jeju 4·3, but most were upland “jungsangan” villages, ostensibly razed to punish villagers for aiding “insurgents” sheltering on Mt. Hallasan.
Why, then, was ruin brought to coastal Goneuldong?
According to local residents, the punitive actions were in response to an attack on military vehicles in nearby Hwabuk. An assailant fled towards Goneuldong, possibly seeking shelter on nearby Byeoldobong Peak, thus damning it as an “insurgent village.”
In 2009, as the site was cleared of weeds, untouched millstones were uncovered just as they had been left six decades earlier. A spring and pond were also found, as were “doldam,” or stonewalls, enclosing the original “olle,” paths leading between houses.
Today the site is still dissected by olle, Jeju Olle 19, one of the island’s famous walking trails. There is also a stone memorial telling the massacre’s tragic tale.
The memorial, however, was opposed by some villagers, and it has been vandalized in the past. They dispute the official account, insisting even more people were slaughtered on those winter days in 1949.