The breakdown of the May 10 general election

On May 10, 1948, a general election for the Constitutional Assembly was held for the first time in what would become South Korea. To establish the government, it was necessary to elect parliamentarians to enact the Constitution. As mentioned earlier, some people refused to participate in the election due to concerns about the risk of war because the election was only being held in the south. Kim Koo, the last premier of the Provisional Government of Korea during the Japanese colonial period and later a Korean nationalist politician, said, “Even though I collapse on the 38th parallel, I cannot cooperate with the establishment of a divided country.”

This was also regarded as the reason for the outbreak of the Jeju 4·3 Uprising and Massacre, according to the Jeju chapter of the South Korean Labor Party. For this reason, the May 10 election was invalid in Jeju as two out of three constituencies boycotted the ballot meaning just one out of three parliamentarians was elected. The failure of the May 10 general election heralded a tragic period in Jeju history.

Official Gazette, USAMGIK Executive Order No. 22 by Major General in Korea William F. Dean. Photo courtesy Jeju Peace Museum
People make their way down the mountain in May 1948.