Day of infamy: April 3, 1948

It was a month before the first election on May 10, which was being held unilaterally in the south and would constitute the formation of the Republic of Korea. As outlined, Jeju Islanders had a great deal of anguish due to the oppression of the Northwest Youth Association, which was operating above the law. The election being held only in the southern half of the peninsula increased agitation over fears that a divided country would result in armed conflict. In fact, this worry proved to be prescient. Following the election, tensions escalated between the newly formed nations and the Korean War would erupt only two years later. It is in this context that on April 3, 1948, 350  individuals on Jeju attacked police stations in part due to strong opposition to the division of the country. This is how, why and when the Jeju 4·3 Uprising and Massacre began. On this day, 12 of the 24 police stations on the island were attacked and 14 people were killed. The armed resistance announced: “Resist against Oppression!”

However, Jeju Island was not the only place where this kind of uprising occurred. Many Koreans did not want a divided country after hard-won independence from Japan. Since national division risked further war, there were uprisings in other regions where they refused to hold an election restricted to southern Korea. When the uprising first occurred on Jeju, it seemed that the police force would be able to control the situation and the military would not be required. If a peaceful resolution had been sought at this stage through dialogue and negotiation, then the situation might not have deteriorated and the deaths of some 30,000 people could have been avoided. There was no peaceful resolution, however, and Jeju Islanders faced a brutal crackdown.