Memories of April in Jeju
[Field Report] Jeju 4·3 Memorial Service held in the Jeju 4‧3 Peace Park
“Grandma, you look more beautiful when smiling than when crying. Please don’t feel sorry for having given little to your children. You are a wonderful parent. You endured the hardships of the past without complaint. So, Grandma, promise me that you will smile every day from now on,” said Jeong Yang-shin, 23, to her grandmother Kim Yeon-ok.
Kim is a survivor of Jeju 4.3 who suffered her whole life from lifelong sequela due to the incident.
After Jeong finished reading her family story, many of the audience began to shed tears.
The old lady, who was only seven years old when dragged to the detention camp near Jeongbang Waterfalls, also burst into tears. All of her family members were killed and she was the only survivor.
Seeing her grandmother wailing, Jeong gave her a hug of condolences.
Early on April 3, the 71st Memorial Service for the victims of Jeju 4·3 took place in the Jeju 4·3 Peace Park, located in Bonggae-dong, Jeju City. The service site was crowded with those who gathered to comfort the souls of the Jeju 4·3 victims and share the spirit of peace.
In and around the Tombstone Park for the Missing and the Memorial Tablet Monument, bereaved family members performed vowing rituals for the victims and offered flowers as tribute, even before the main memorial service.
The Ashes Enshrinement Hall also had many worshipers. The visitors touched one by one the memorial plaques of the some 14,000 people killed (officially identified by state as victims of Jeju 4‧3), while praying for the comfort of their departed souls.
On March 27, the Committee on Discovering Truth on Jeju 4·3 Incident and Restoration of Honor of Victims confirmed an additional 130 people as victims and installed their name plaques in the Ashes Enshrinement Hall. In front of these additional plaques as well, the victims’ bereaved families mourned and prayed that their family members will rest in peace.
The memorial service was hosted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and organized by Jeju Special Self-Governing Province with the theme of “Revisit the spirit of Jeju 4·3, dream together the peace of the world.”
The heads of the nation’s five leading political parties attended the service to offer their condolences, including Lee Nak-yon (Prime Minister), Kim Bu-kyeom (Minister, Ministry of Public Administration and Security), Won Heeryong (Governor, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province), Lee Hae-chan (Chairperson, Democratic Party of Korea), Hwang Kyo-ahn (Chairperson, Liberty Korea Party), Sohn Hak-kyu (Chairperson, Bareun Mirae Party), Chung Dong-young (Chairperson, Party for Democracy and Peace), and Lee Jeong-mi (Chairperson, Justice Party). The service was also attended by local lawmakers, such as Kang Chang-il, Oh Young-hun, and Wi Seong-gon.
For the first time this year, the national government invited to the event former prisoners, who had been wrongly convicted for unlawful causes during Jeju 4·3 and forced to live harsh lives away from their homes in Jeju Island.
The pre-event was held at 9 A.M., and at 10 A.M. a siren calling for silent tribute echoed throughout the island, which was the first program of the main memorial service.
Do-ol Kim Yong-ok announced the Jeju Peace Declaration while actor Yoo Ah-in proclaimed the Resolution of 71 Years, stressing the transmission of the memories of Jeju 4·3 to the coming generations.
Distinguished guests including Prime Minister Lee offered flowers and burnt incense in turn. Then the audience sang the national anthem and pledged allegiance to the nation, including paying respect to the nation’s patriotic martyrs and fallen heroes as well as the Jeju 4·3 victims.
Prime Minister Lee delivered a memorial speech on behalf of President Moon Jae-in. During the speech, he stated, “I express my profound respect to the Jeju residents who have overcome destruction and devastation to rebuild their peaceful communities.”
He also pledged to “keep restoring the honor to the victims until we piece together the truth of Jeju 4·3 and hear from every one of you telling us ‘this is enough’.”
He concluded his remarks, saying: “Concerning the legislative matters such as establishing the National Trauma Center and state compensation and indemnification, we will suggest our ideas and opinions in consultation with the National Assembly.”
Won Heeryong, governor of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, stated in his speech: “Jeju 4·3 is one of the most painful events in our history but a task yet to be resolved even after 71 years. By conducting an additional investigation for the truth, we need to restore the honor to the wrongfully accused prisoners and establish justice.”
Song Seung-moon, president of the Association for the Bereaved Families of the 4·3 Victims, also addressed the audience and said, “The memorial ceremony this year should be the one where 80,000 victims and their families who lived with pent-up sorrows could feel the warmth of spring to the full.”
He also called for the revision of the Jeju 4·3 Special Act, and stated, “It is urgent to discover the genuine truth to clear the names of the imprisoned Jeju 4·3 victims.”
After the speeches, 10,000 participants together sang “Spring in My Hometown” and “Sleepless Southern Island” as the finale of the memorial service, offering flowers to the Memorial Altar and praying for the eternal comfort for the souls of the deceased.