The arrival of the Northwest Youth Association

Throughout the Jeju 4·3 Uprising and Massacre, the Northwest Youth Association inflicted unforgettable trauma on the Jeju Islanders. Pictured above, a group of men from the group call for communists to be “crushed down.”

The Northwest Youth Association (Seobuk Cheongnyeondan) was formed by a group of landowners who were forced to leave North Korea due to the political climate there including land reform and a crackdown on pro-Japanese factions. They were, therefore, naturally hostile to left-wing groups. Having learned that Jeju was the “island of reds,” they saw little wrong in killing Jeju Islanders. Alongside police officers from the mainland, the Northwest Youth Association was deployed to Jeju Island after the shootings on March 1 under orders from the USAMGIK. Although they were given the title of police officers, they were not paid and sustained themselves through the looting of Jeju Islanders.

The Northwest Youth Association was deployed following a request by the government to go to regions where leftists were running wild. What objective standards could we have? One example was Jeju Island. Head of police, Jo Byeong-ok, called us as soon as the 4·3 incident happened. He said that a big incident had occurred on Jeju Island and he requested that we send around 500 anti-communists as riot police.
Moon Bong-jae (head of the Northwest Youth Association during the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre).

Taking responsibility for the March 10 general strike, Park Gyeong-hun, the first Jeju governor under the USAMGIK, resigned. His successor, Yoo Hae-jin (1947-1948), assumed the position on April 10, 1947, and it was during his governorship that the first seven members of the Northwest Youth Association arrived on Jeju. From that point until the start of the 4.3 Uprising in 1948, around 760 members of the Northwest Youth Association entered the island. Another 1,700 arrived later. Upon the first arrival, they wore police uniforms before later donning military uniforms.

When we found out that our schoolmate Kim Yong-cheol died at Jocheon police box after being tortured, our anger toward the police and the Northwest Youth Association grew. We handed out brochures stating, ‘No more vicious police!’ We were shocked when we saw people who had initiated the April 3rd Uprising getting killed by the police. The police and the Northwest Youth Association made it impossible to live in my village, so I went up the mountain in August 1948. I was in the second grade of Jocheon Middle School. I did not expect this situation to continue for that long. By chance, I met Lee Duk-koo, the second commander-in-chief of the guerrilla unit. He used to be my school teacher and I was happy to see him. He looked at me with an anxious face and asked me why I was there, and not studying.
Kim Minjoo (17 years old in 1948)