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Moon apologizes for state oppression in Jeju

President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday attended a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Jeju April 3 Incident, apologizing for the violence inflicted by the state.

Moon is the second incumbent president to attend the ceremony after former President Roh Moo-hyun, who attended in 2006.

Citing efforts to reveal the truth about the events, Moon apologized to the victims and their families, and thanked those who have tried over the years to bring the truth to light. 

President Moon Jae-in gives a speech at the event marking the 70th anniversary of the Jeju April 3 Uprising in Jeju on Tuesday. Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in gives a speech at the event marking the 70th anniversary of the Jeju April 3 Uprising in Jeju on Tuesday. Yonhap

“As the president, I extend sincere condolences and thanks to the people of Jeju, surviving victims and bereaved families who voiced the pain and truth about the April 3 (uprising),” Moon said.

The Jeju April 3 Incident took place in 1948, and led to tens of thousands of Jeju residents accused of being communists being killed and imprisoned.

The events that led to the uprising began in 1947, and martial law was declared on Jeju in November 1948. The state’s suppression of the uprising -- branded a communist-led revolt -- continued until 1954, with the death toll estimated to be about 30,000. At the time, the Jeju population stood at about 300,000.

In his speech, Moon said that the state’s oppression went beyond the sites of massacres, citing the unfair treatment of those who were branded communists.

Going on to list works of literature, arts and protests that attempted to reveal the truth about the state’s oppression, Moon said that such efforts brought the truth to light, and promised further government support for the victims.

“I declare that the truth of April 3 is part of history that cannot be denied by any force,” Moon said.

He added that the government would support efforts to reveal the truth about the violent oppression, and continue with efforts to recover the remains of those killed.

Moon also said that the government would work with the National Assembly to draw up victim-support measures that require legislative procedures, and called on the nation to accept history.

The ruling and opposition parties have mixed views of the events.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea largely echoed the president, calling for opposition parties’ cooperation in revising laws related to the April 3 Uprising.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party, on the other hand, took the opportunity to highlight the involvement of communists in the events that took place on Jeju between 1947 and 1954.

Saying that the April 3 Uprising involved armed revolt by the Workers’ Party of South Korea, and led to civilian casualties, Liberty Korea Party spokesman Rep. Chang Je-won said that the country was facing a crisis. The Workers’ Party of South Korea was a communist party that took form after liberation from Japan in 1945. The organization was dissolved in 1949.

“The free South Korea is facing a serious crisis. The Moon Jae-in administration is engaging in a ‘fake peace show’ with North Korea,” Chang said.

“(The administration) is pushing a socialist amendment of the Constitution that will shake the country to its roots.”

By Choi He-suk (