Life on Jeju after liberation

Downtown Jeju City following liberation.

Generally, people are more interested in their daily lives than they are in politics. If life is good, people are normally not that concerned about politics. However, life was harsh for the Jeju people following liberation. After gaining independence, around 60,000 Jeju citizens returned to the island from Japan where many, either forcibly or voluntarily, had been during the colonial period. As a result, jobs on the island were scarce and society was unstable.

After liberation, the people who had left their hometowns as conscripts, forced laborers or workers returned with great expectations. But there was no way to earn money on Jeju. Although some people say that Jeju 4·3 occurred because of the South Korean Labor Party, that was a secondary reason. People resisted because, even after liberation, the pro-Japanese had not been punished, there were no jobs available and they were being suppressed by a corrupt police force.
Testimony by Kang Soon-hyun
(Ohyun Middle School teacher, 27-years old at the time of Jeju 4.3)

Compounding the situation was the fact that the USAMGIK did not allow people returning from Japan to bring back the money they had earned there. During Japanese colonization, daily necessities were imported from Japan, but this was not possible after liberation. As a result, the economic situation for the Jeju people became dire. Moreover, during the summer of 1946, Jeju suffered a cholera outbreak with around 50 cases a day, and Islanders were also dealing with a drought-inflicted food shortage. Even in this severe situation, the corrupt officers who had worked for the Japanese kept their positions of authority under the USAMGIK and continued to exploit the Jeju people.

Islanders, particularly the youth who felt the situation most keenly, were outraged and began to demand justice.