Unfinished Business: A Joint South Korea and United States Jeju 4.3 Tragedy Task Force to Further Implement Recommendations and Foster Comprehensive and Enduring Social Healing Through Justice
83 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2014
Date Written: May 26, 2014
Summer 2013 marked the publication of the English translation of the National Committee’s 2003 Investigative Report on the Jeju 4.3 Tragedy (“Translated Report”). The translated version is momentous. For the Korean populace, it exposes to vast new audiences a startling and horrific “peacetime” chapter of South Korean history — the mass killing of some 30,000 Jeju residents, the torture, rape and detention of many more, the destruction of 40,000 homes and the burning of numerous villages. For English readers, in entirety, the over 700-page, 1,300-footnote Translated Report reveals fresh insights into salient facets of the Tragedy and its consequences — far beyond those recited in the earlier translated “Conclusion” section of the Report. In particular the Translated Report as a whole sheds brighter light on the extent of United States responsibility both for past individual and communal harms and for present-day social healing.
Initially acting on the 4.3 National Committee’s recommendations, the South Korea government began a healing process that included a concise presidential apology, government-sponsored museum and extensive public memorial and gravesite and limited financial payments to a few. But there remains a palpable sense among many that Jeju 4.3 social healing is starkly incomplete. The wounds persist. After the 2007 South Korea presidential inauguration, reconciliation efforts in some respects regressed.
In recent years grassroots 4.3 justice organizing, galvanized by Jeju’s emergence as a “Peace Island” and model of environmental sustainability, attracted international scrutiny and ignited a resurgence of 4.3 social healing advocacy. Jeju people, journalists, local government officials and supporters advanced those initial grassroots efforts. Scholars and community advocates also publicized 4.3 history and crafted beginning recommendations for next steps through convenings in Jeju and Hawai‘i and through popular and academic publications. A renewed 4.3 Special Committee of the Jeju Self-Governing Council, which laid a foundation for truth-finding from 1993 to 2003, appears poised again to play an important role. The 2013 Translated Report integrated these forces into a 4.3 social healing movement.
In light of the new English translation and an abiding sense among many that Jeju 4.3 social healing is “unfinished business,” this article responds to the pressing socio-legal question, “What’s next?” Its responses, and especially the recommendation for a Joint South Korea and United States Jeju 4.3 Task Force to Further Implement Recommendations and Foster Comprehensive and Enduring Social Healing Through Justice (described below), are grounded in three related ways.
First, they are grounded in Professor Yamamoto’s exposure (as a reviewer of the near-final draft of the Translated Report) to voluminous details and careful assessments of the researchers and analysts crafting the Report — supported by prior research of others and by extensive updated independent research and analysis, some of which was conducted in Korean by a member of the research team.
Second, the responses are grounded in research on Jeju Island and continuing documentary inspection and conversations with island residents about history, current conditions and future aspirations. And third, and related, this article’s responses, and especially the proposal for a Joint Task Force, are grounded in collaborations with Jeju 4.3 scholars and interactions with institutes at Jeju National University, local officials and community justice advocates.
The interactions with the people and places of Jeju Island made poignantly real some of the human suffering and realpolitik forces at play. Viewed through the analytical lens of social healing through justice, they also underscored the importance of South Korean reconciliation efforts in the past decade — both salutary and unfinished — and the significance of continuing justice advocacy by the Jeju people and their supporters. And they highlighted that we in the United States know almost nothing about the Tragedy and the apparently significant role of the United States as the post-World War II peacetime military force in South Korea with control over the Korean military and national police. Most important, they illuminated potential next steps toward genuine reconciliation that could mutually benefit the Jeju people, South Korea and the United States.
Indeed, joint participation by the United States, South Korea and the Jeju government and people is crucial. It is even more important now because of the construction of a naval base on Jeju (according to some, partially for United States use) in the face of visible resident and global opposition (as well as some support) and because of the call of many to uplift Jeju as an island of environmental sustainability and peace. Potential U.S. participation in further Jeju 4.3 social healing is an issue that is live, real and uncertain.
What might compel the United States (as well as the South Korea government) to perceive a strong interest in social healing? And, related, if there is to be joint future participation, in what form might this mutual engagement materialize? Many possibilities emerge. All entail strategic planning, realistic assessments and careful framing in fashioning incremental steps forward. The proposal advanced in this article is a Joint South Korea and United States Jeju 4.3 Task Force to Further Implement Recommendations and Foster Comprehensive and Enduring Social Healing Through Justice. That Joint Task Force would likely serve as a crucial next step toward genuine reconciliation — helping implement unfinished recommendations, assessing the effectiveness of actions to date and recommending further concrete actions aimed at the kind of justice that fosters comprehensive, systemic and enduring social healing.
This proposal for an assessment, implementation and oversight Task Force reflects the new next phase for long-standing, unfinished reconciliation initiatives. Described in depth in Section V, it also emerges from the multi-disciplinary framework of social healing through justice Professor Yamamoto has been developing for guiding and assessing practical reconciliation initiatives.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation