Summary of official investigation on Jeju April 3 incident

Disclaimer: Followings are textual contents of images of the summary of The Official Investigation on Jeju April 3 Incident final report conclusion by The National Committee for Investigation of the Truth about the Jeju April 3 Incident and the apology statement by then (October 2003) president Roh Moo-hyun following the recommendations from the committee. As remarked in the apology statement, the Jeju April 3 incident marks one of the most tragic incidents in the modern history of Korea and many innocent Jeju civilians lost their lives in the aftermaths of ideological clashes of Cold War era. The knowledge of this incident is crucial in understanding the deep-lying trauma Jeju islanders have against people from outside (authority forces from outside in particular) and the unrelenting aspiration for peace by Jeju islanders.

Summary of The Official Investigation on Jeju April 3 Incident Final Report Conclusion

The Jeju April 3 Incident was a series of events in which thousands of islanders were killed as a result of clashes between armed civilian groups and government forces. It took place over the period from March 1, 1947, when the National Police opened fire on protesters, and April 3, 1948, when members of the Jeju branch of the South Korean Labor Party began an uprising to protest against the South Korean government, until September 21, 1954, when closed areas of Halla Mountain were reopened to the public (Final Report of Investigation of Jeju April 3 Incident, p 536).

The Incident occurred because of various complicated factors, mainly the March 1, 1947 shootings by the National Police (employed by the US military government) followed by tortures resulting in deaths, terror, and mass arrests by the police and Northwest Youth Group, a group of extreme rightists. In response, and to protest the general election that was only held in the southern half of the peninsula, members of the Jeju branch of the South Korean Labor Party attacked several police stations, which started the April 3 Jeju uprising.

The Committee has received reports from 14,373 victims. It believes that there could be more unreported or unconfirmed cases, estimated from 25,000 to 30,000 altogether, given the facts derived from the information collected by the committee and the statistics on the population of the island before and after the Incident.

According to the statistics that the committee received, 86% of the killings were done by security forces and 13.9 % by the armed rebels. Those statistics are similar to the G-2 Report of the US military forces, which stated that more than 80% of the killings were attributed to security forces.

The most tragic part of the incident occurred due to the strategy adopted by the 9th and 2nd Regiments that allowed wanton destruction of the villages situated in the middle of Halla Mountain. Ninety-five percent of the villages were burned down and completely destroyed and most of the villagers were killed.

Considering the chain of command of the security forces, the ones most responsible for the massacres were the chief commanders of the two regiments. However, then President Seungman Rhee was ultimately responsible, as he declared martial law in the area and ordered hard-line measures to suppress the uprising.

The US military government and the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) were also found to bear responsibility, as the Incident occurred under the rule of the US military government and an American colonel from the KMAG was the commander of Jeju’s security forces.

Recommendations to the Government

  1. To issue an apology to Jeju islanders, the victims and their families
  2. To declare the date of April 3 as a memorial day
  3. To utilize the final report as educational material
  4. To actively support the establishment of Jeju April 3 Peace Memorial Park
  5. To provide essential living expenses to bereaved families suffering from proverty
  6. To support excavations of mass graves and historical sites
  7. To continuously support further investigations and memorial affairs

Apology statement by then president Roh Moo-hyun

Esteemed Jeju islanders, victims and the bereaved from the April 3 Incident, fellow citizens.

Fifty-five years ago, the April 3 Incident, one of the most tragic events of our modern history, occurred on this peaceful island. The people in Jeju have suffered greatly from losses of lives and fortune amid the Cold War and the division of our nation.

Before visiting Jeju Island today, I received the final report which was drafted based on the investigations for 2 or more years undertaken by the Committee of the Jeju April 3 Incident, established under the Special Act for Investigation of the Jeju April 3 Incident and Recovering the Honour of Victims, whose members were from various sectors. The committee recommended the government to apologize for the wrongdoings against the victims, to honor the victims and to actively support memorial projects. I think that it is high time for us to address the historical issues which arose during the nation-building process after liberation, and which we have been unable to address or resolve since then.

In Jeju, many islanders were victimized in the clashes from the shootings on March 1, 1947, through the armed uprising by the South Korean Labor Party on April 3, 1948, to the reopening of Halla Mountain on September 21, 1954. In response to the recommendations from the committee, I, in my capacity as President, would like to apologize for the wrongdoings of the previous government and express my sincere condolences to the victims and the bereaved. May their innocent souls rest in peace. The government will actively support the implementation of the committee’s recommendations such as building a memorial park and honoring the victims at the earliest time.

Esteemed citizens, fact-finding to unveil the truth about past incidents does not only mean bringing justice for the victims and the bereaved, but also paying tribute to those who worked hard to build the country and promising a brighter future for the next generation.

By applying the valuable lessons that we have learned from the April 3 incident, we should try to promote universal human values such as peace and human rights. We should cease the confrontation and division in this land and open a new era where everyone in Northeast Asia and the world lives in peace. Jeju islanders have built a new peaceful island from the ashes with their bare hands. I sincerely express my respect for Jeju islanders. The future of Jeju will be as a symbol of human rights and a cornerstone of peace. We will support the people of Jeju in every step of the way.

Thank you very much.

October 31, 2003

President Roh Moo-hyun

Useful links

  • Original image of the summary document:
  • Original image of the apology statement by then president Roh Moo-hyun:
  • Wikipedia summary of Jeju uprising:

One comment

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