[EDITORIALS]Justice in the Jeju massacreThe government is about to conclude an investigation into the massacre of Jeju civilians in clashes between police and armed communist rebels in 1948, and to declare its official position on the incident for the first time. Finally, an incident that has been neglected by the government for 50 years will receive its due attention.
It is our sincere hope that the investigation has uncovered both sides of the story, the communist riot and the killing of the innocent by police, and that the government’s position does not sway too much to either side.
There is no contradicting that the “April 3 incident,” as it is called, started with a massive riot by leftist guerrillas who committed arson and attacked public facilities during the chaotic aftermath of liberation. The objective of the guerrillas was to prevent UN-sponsored general elections to establish a government in the southern part of the peninsula. Military police were mobilized to crack down on the rioters, leading to six years of internal clashes that continued until September 1954. The number of civilians killed in the overzealous crackdown has yet to be confirmed.
Jeju residents, including families still bearing the stigma of having relatives accused as communists, have consistently asked past governments to redress the issue. The Kim Dae-jung government launched a probe into the incident and created a committee to restore the honor of the victims. On Saturday, the Roh Moo-hyun administration will adopt a final report and declare the government’s position. Considering the bitter grief that the families of the approximately 14,000 victims have suffered all this time, appropriate measures should follow to restore the dignity of the victims and to compensate their families.
Nevertheless, these acts of restitution should not distort the truth about the April 3 incident or beautify it. The honor of the unjustly sacrificed victims should be restored, but the essence of the incident remains in the armed riot by leftist forces. The government should refrain from a blanket apology that does not distinguish the cause of the incident from the result. When the president announces his apology, it should be for the tragic loss of life, but with the firm acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the nation.