Updated January. 18, 2014 07:25
The government announced that it will revise a presidential decree on national anniversaries to designate the memorial day for the victims of the April 3, 1948 Jeju massacre of civilians. The move is aimed at upgrading the civilian-level memorial ceremony for the victims to a government level. Consoling the victims and their bereaved families has been a long desire among the people of Jeju and is necessary for national harmony. During her election campaign in December 2012, President Park Geun-hye promised to "continue to make efforts until the pain of Jeju residents is gone," saying that the April 3 incident was "painful history of the entire nation."
However, it is a different matter to designate the day as a national memorial day. After a plan to hold the May 10, 1948 general elections was announced to form South Korea`s initial parliament, the Communist Workers` Party of South Korea, which was linked to North Korea, waged an all-out struggle to obstruct the founding of South Korea by instigating a riot in Daegu on February 7 and attacking 11 police stations on Jeju Island on April 3. The Jeju April 3rd Peace Park records that leaders of the Communist Workers` Party of South Korea attended South Korean people`s representatives meeting held in Haeju, North Korea in August 1948. Those who waged armed struggled against the founding of North Korea risked their safety to attend a ceremony for the founding of the North. It is the reality that many people criticize the move to designate April 3 as a national memorial day because of that fact.
There are national anniversaries commemorating pro-democracy popular resistances such as the April 19, 1960 Revolution, the May 18, 1980 Gwangju Uprising and the June 10, 1987 Democracy Movement. The incidents were major watershed in South Korea`s democracy. However, the nature of the April 3 incident is different from those pro-democracy movements. The planned designation of April 3 as a national memorial day could cause considerable controversies over the legitimacy, identity and the constitutional values of the Republic of Korea. The government`s naming of the day as the "Memorial Day for Victims of April 3 (Incident)" indicates its painstaking considerations.
Some conservative groups are already moving to launch a public campaign opposing the designation. On Sept. 27, 2001, the Constitutional Court ruled that key officials of the Communist Workers` Party of South Korea and those who damaged the basic liberal democratic order by actively participating in the murders and arsons should not be designated as the "victims." Not all people of Jeju are of one mind. The bereaved families of people victimized by leader of the April 3 uprising oppose the designation of April 3 as a national memorial day.
The designation of April 3 as a national memorial day is concluded after going through administrative procedures of listening to public opinions until February 26, cabinet deliberation, and the president`s approval and announcement. During the process, the government should pay attention to diverse opinions. That is the way to reduce national conflicts and console the spirits of the victims.