Kim Jeong-a (born 1946 in Go-nae, Aewol; lives in Tokyo, Japan)
Photo and article by Cho Jeong-hee,
Deputy Director of the Memorial Project Team
Source: 「Jaemin Ilbo Newspaper」 (Nov. 13, 1998)
I was born in 1946. I was only two months old when Jeju 4·3 broke out. Of course, I do not remember anything about the incident, nor the faces or the voices of my parents. No one could explain why my parents passed away, why I became an orphan, or why I could not hear with my right ear. I did not know why my deaf ear kept oozing pus all the time. There was no explanation. It is only the wounds on my body that remember that horrible day 70 years ago.
The police record of innocent people killed during Jeju 4·3. Parents of Kim Jeong-a (Kim Bong-eon and Oh Chang-soon) are known to have been murdered during an assault on Gonae-ri on Nov. 13, 1948 (Jeju 4·3 Peace Foundation).
On the night of Nov. 13, 1948, they attacked our house in Gonae-ri. The three of us — my father, my mother, and I — were asleep inside. We were slashed relentlessly by blades and spears. On that day, my father died. My mother lived for 10 days after suffering from the wounds. She was slashed everywhere.
I was found in covered blood as my mother was shielding me up during the assault. I was raised by my grandmother, who was desperate to save her one and only granddaughter. Unlike what my neighbors thought would happen, my wounds began to heal. However, even when the wounds on my chest, shoulder, arms, and neck healed, my right ear never regained its hearing. It’s uncomfortable, but I could bear it as I was able to use the other ear. The oozing of pus from my right ear, however, was embarrassing. It bruised my heart. I was afraid someone might see it, so I always used a handkerchief to cover my right ear. I looked everywhere and searched hard to make the oozing better, but it was of no use.
Scars from the stabbing under the ear.
My father graduated from Tokyo University. He was a smart man and a teacher at Aewol Middle School. He was the pride of my grandmother as everyone in the village envied him. My grandmother was in grief from her son’s death. She sent her other children, my uncle and aunt, as stowaways to Japan, in her efforts to save them. She had to see the faces of the assailants, the same people who killed her son and daughter-in-law, every day. Who could understand the fury and the sadness of my grandmother? She felt pity on me, who lost both her mother and father. Yet she did not come to my school on the days of my entrance ceremony, graduation, or sports day because she did not want to think of her lost son. I still remember when she cried in front of her son’s grave. She told me that it was her last wish to see me married. Indeed, she did pass away after I got married.
After my wedding, I first received an operation at Severance Hospital in Seoul. Although I was told that my hearing could not be recovered, I had to do it anyway. After the operation, there was no miracle, and I still could not hear with my right ear. There were numerous treatments that followed, and the symptoms improved. Still, the oozing never stopped. Looking back, it has been a long time, but nothing really improved over the 70 years. I had no one to call mother and father. It was awkward just to utter those two words. Now, I have become the mother of two daughters and a grandmother of a granddaughter. Yet, the wounds of Jeju 4·3 are still the source of my pain, fury, loneliness, and sorrow.
The Jeju 4·3 aftermath disability report and diagnosis written 70 years after Jeju 4.3.
It has been about 38 years since I came to Tokyo. There are not many chances to learn about Jeju when you are living in Japan. I recently learned of the building of the Jeju 4·3 Peace Park as well as reports on the Jeju 4·3 victims and survivors. Fortunately, the deaths of my parents were reported by relatives living in Jeju. Now, I think it is my turn to report the death of my uncle and register their families as well as report my disability. For the first time in 70 years, I am talking about the wounds of Jeju 4·3. Honestly, I was afraid and embarrassed, but after I began talking about it, I felt comfortable and resolved in my mind. I think it is time I paid tribute to my parents.
The graves of Kim’s parents (Oct. 1, 2018).