- 연구원소식 - Jeju, Island of World Peace 컨텐츠
Jeju, Island of World Peace 컨텐츠
Titles [Jeju, Island of World Peace] (No.9 | December 2018)_Jeju - The First and Last Victims of Two Wars
Writer JPI  (admin)
2018-11-30 오전 9:37:25

Jeju - The First and Last Victims of Two Wars





Director, The Track2Asia/Former Member of the European Parliament


Jeju justly deserves to be seen as an island of world peace because for so long it was its antithesis. The people of Jeju were amongst the first victims of the ‘Cold War’, the ensuing civil war and the North East Asian war it became. They remained so until years the collapse of the Soviet Empire. 


There has been a protracted debate between North and South, and the penumbra of academics around them, has to who started the civil war on June 25th 1950. There is little doubt that it was the North that initiated that particular military incursion. Yet by far the more interesting question has always been ‘when’ rather the ‘who’. The opening salvos of the civil war go back almost to the point of the Peninsula’s Liberation. Before the formal declaration of hostilities in the South there were years of savage repression by Syngman Rhee’s Government as he and his right wing militias and gangs of former Japanese collaborators tried to discipline and control the population in the aftermath of liberation and separation.


The population was an inchoate ideological cocktail of nationalists, socialists and Marxists in many cases imbued with anti-Western notions. Many were two or more of these at the same time. They had high expectations of the future that were not to be easily thwarted. Yet thwarted they were. Tens of thousands died in savage pogroms against progressives as hopes and aspirations were sacrificed in a bloody struggle to turn the clock back to the past. Jeju was the epitome of that process.


Effectively the island was the only part of the Peninsula not embroiled in the civil war itself but it was still its victim. Jeju was never invaded, never shelled and never bombed. A unique environment where a ferocious and covert second and more protracted civil war took place across a long decade spanning the period before, during and after the conflict of 1950-53. The subjection of the people and the real nature of the regime is laid bare uncontaminated and unobscured by the impact of that other war. The same happened across the country as with the massacre of 200,000 out of the 330,000 supposed fellow travellers dragooned into the National Guidance Alliance in the first days of the civil war. In Jeju its starkness strips it naked of excuse and justification.


On April 3rd 1948 a group from the South Korean Labour Party started an armed uprising in Jeju in protest at the forthcoming Constitutional Assembly elections which with a deeply flawed franchise was to unilaterally establish the Republic of Korea in the face of Pyongyang’s objections. The 9th Regiment of the Korean Army was swiftly sent it to resolve the situation and by the 28th April they had negotiated a reasonably amicable settlement. This was arbitrarily rejected by General Dean representing the United States Military Government in Korea. 


The consequence was - under the justification of ‘false flag’ atrocities - wave upon wave of murder and massacre swept to and fro across the island that resulted in thousands fleeing for refuge in Japan and between 30-80,000 murders, deaths and executions over the following ten years. Up to a third of the island’s men were killed alongside thousands of women and children. It was only in April 1957 the killing ended when the last ‘rebel’ was officially captured.


Yet it was still not over for the people of this benighted island. In the aftermath of the armistice the surviving family members of the victims continued to be punished. They were shorn of voice to mourn and the manifestations of their suffering. Instead they and their children were denied educational opportunities, harassed by the police and authorities and designated social outcasts. It didn’t end with Syngman Rhee’s resignation. It continued under Park Chung-hee and his successors. As Hwang Sukyoung documents in ‘Korea’s Grievous War’ (2016) those trying to remember and memorialise their dead were accused of ‘anti-state activities’. They were tried and imprisoned. An elderly widow in Ulsan was sentenced to a year in prison for excavating the remains of husband and teenage daughter.


It was a half-century before the people of Jeju could publically lament their loss and acknowledge their trauma. It was not until the elections of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun that the forces of forgetting were finally thwarted. The full horror of the South’s savage suppression of its own people and their aspirations could begin to be told. History is written by the winners. The tragedies of Jeju have begun to emerge from a past shrouded in shame and the events are becoming part of a new history embodied in memory and stone. The hidden, the forgotten and the marginalised are finally emerging as the winners on an island whose past makes it all too appropriately a place of peace. The end of the Korean War will finally bring to an end this second savage war of peace as much in need of closure as the first.

Glyn Ford was a Member of the European Parliament for over 25 years, leaving the EP in June 2009. Before entering the European Parliament Glyn was a Senior Research Fellow in Manchester University’s Department of Science and Technology Policy and was at various times a Visiting Fellow/ Professor at Sussex University, the University of Tokyo and the East-West Centre in Hawaii. At the European Parliament he served on both the International Trade and Foreign Affairs Committees, particularly on dossiers related to Asia. During his time as an MEP, Glyn was rapporteur for the Free-Trade Agreement with ASEAN, for implementing the Scientific Partnership Agreement with the Republic of Korea, and he was ‘shadow’ on the EU-Japan and EU-China trade agreements.


Glyn was also a member of the Delegation with the Japanese Diet from 1984 to 2009, and the Delegation for relations with the Korean Peninsula from its creation in 2004 to 2009. Glyn was leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party and Deputy Leader of the Socialist Group and served at various times on the Research, Technology and Energy, Justice and Home Affairs, Petitions and Rules Committees along with the Sub-Committee on Security and Defence. He was the Socialist Co-ordinator on both the Rules and Petitions Committees.


(For more information about Glyn Ford’s activities in the European Parliament, please follow the link below: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/archive/alphaOrder/view.do?language=EN&id=1413)

After leaving the Parliament, Glyn Ford founded POLINT, focusing on European Politics, International Relations and International Trade. He also continued his political and academic engagement with the DPRK and the East Asian region. These activities, which have always been conducted on a ‘non-profit’ basis, are now carried out in the framework of the NGO Track2Asia.


Thanks to his engagement with the DPRK, he is now considered one of the most pre-eminent European experts on the Korean peninsula in particular, and East Asia in general. A sample of this expertise can be seen in his books “North Korea on the Brink” (Pluto Press, 2008 and later translated into Japanese and Korean) and "Talking to North Korea" (Pluto Press, 2018).