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On a Hot Day in April

by Seo-hee Yang
Jeju Jungang Girls High School, Jeju-si
Submitted by Zach Winters, ETA 2017-2018

Although it was Spring in April 1948, on Jeju it was never warm. Regardless of age and sex, there was a pitiless massacre. Also, there was a disastrous situation where almost everything in the town was burnt. It was so painfully hot for a warm spring.

Actually, this was the day of the “Incident on the Third of April” on Jeju Island, which we call “4.3.” 4.3 was an incident that occurred on April 3 rd in 1957 and lasted for about 7 years and 7 months. Lots of innocent people became miserable victims. That’s why this incident is so regrettable and pitiful.

The background of this incident is complicated. The first reason why 4.3 happened was because a young child was hit and injured by a police horse. However, the police ignored the child and just passed by. This made people so angry that they began following the police and throwing stones. In response, the police began shooting at people, and five were killed. One of the people killed was a woman who hadn’t thrown any stones and just happened to be standing there.

Another reason that caused the 4.3 incident was the struggle between social rightists and leftists about whether there should be independent elections in South Korea. At this time South Korea was occupied by the military government of the US and Japanese soldiers. Their inhumane attitudes can’t even be explained with words. Lee Seung-Man, the first president of South Korea, regarded the people of Jeju as “red”, or socialist, so he declared illegal martial law and oppressed so many Jeju citizens. At that time, people in Jeju had to run to survive, and many families were broken up. The genocide was something that humans can’t and mustn’t do. For example, burying people alive, suffocating people who were stuck underground, or holding a baby by the legs and flinging his or her head into the rocks. Their behavior was so incomprehensible. However, no one has been punished because of the 4.3 incident, and the victims of 4.3 have to live with their pain for their entire lives.

It is difficult for people to discuss the events of 4.3 because the incident does not have an official name. The name “the 4.3 incident” still isn’t recognized by the public. For a long time, the word “4.3” was banned by the government. So, it is only recently that many people could learn about this incident.

4.3 is the second biggest incident in recent Korean history in terms of damage to human lives. The biggest one was the War of June 25th, the Korean civil war. Moreover, 4.3 was a struggle inside of our country, but it was also an international problem that had a very strong impact. Nevertheless, there are not enough people who know about 4.3. We must feel sorry for and guilty about the innocent victims that were sacrificed when this incident was covered up. Not only is the history of “4.3” significant for Jeju, but we also must not forget that 4.3 evokes the importance of peace, unification, and human rights.

If everyone in the world knew about 4.3., then the victims’ sacrifice would not be in vain. In April, 1948 in Jeju, it should have been so warm, but rather than beautiful flowers there was chaos and painful flames. We must remember this incident. The history of overcoming “4.3” is a symbol of overcoming violence and a symbol of the peaceful island that Jeju can now be.


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