Last December 13 to 14, the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation organized the annual Jeju Peace Forum, with the theme “Jeju 4.3 and the United States, Human Rights, Responsibility and Peace”. The Jeju Peace Forum, which is now on its eighth year, coincides with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Jeju 4.3 Foundation.
Global NGO Master’s Program students Lee Suk Pei (Malaysia), Zico Mulia (Indonesia), and Mia Rosmiati (Indonesia) shared their insightful reflections on the forum*.
Lee Suk Pei: I feel very lucky to be given the opportunity to visit Jeju again. My participation last year in the Jeju 4.3 Peace Forum was short and not given enough time to appreciate the 4.3 incident and the importance to commemorate it. This time, with some handy information prior to the event, I was more prepared to absorb information that we are given to during the forum.
During the 4.3 incident, we managed to see how the difference in political ideology and the use of fake news resulted in a loss of innocent lives. Looking at those exhibits in the museum, I could not help myself but think, “What makes people become so cruel to each other?”
This year’s forum was done on the theme of Jeju 4.3 and the American occupation from 1945 to 48. A number of attendees in this forum failed to extensively discuss the United States’ (US) responsibility in the Jeju Uprising, which I think is an expression or maturity rather than cowardice. This is something to be praised for. Furthermore, the participation of the journalist who exposed the killing in Nogunri once again highlighted the importance of the fourth estate in keeping states accountable.
There is one very interesting question that was mentioned in the forum: How did South Korea, a weaker country, sought redress from a stronger country like the US?
The representative from the bereaved family asserted that the politics of language played an important role in seeking redress. Producing reports and journals on the incident is the first step in debunking misinformation and sensitizing the public about what transpired in the Uprising. I gravitated much to his speech as it also relates to my experience as a foreigner in Korea.
There are plenty of resources for expatriates and foreign students in Korea but because of language and cultural barriers, these resources are sometimes not accessible to them. Hence, I admire his approach; this is something many organizations in this field can emulate.
Zico Mulia: More than 100 people from the academe, civil society, families of victims, and media attended the 8th Jeju Peace Forum. I learned about the role of the US military in the Jeju Uprising. However, I realized that there is a lack of female experts in US-Korea foreign policy as well as Southeast Asian scholars.
Mia Rosmiati: This was not my first time attending the Jeju Peace Forum. I was here in the same forum last year. The difference between this year forum and the previous one is that most of the speakers are scholars and a journalist from the US.
The forum was divided by two sessions, first one was about the responsibility of the US (moral, legal, political) while the second session discussed cases of how the victims of Jeju massacre overcome their past tragedy through retelling the story to the world.
The most interesting part from this forum was the session one which was about the responsibility of the US on the Jeju massacre. One of the speakers, Hope Elizabeth May, was a scholar from the US. She was talking about the story of responsibility. I still remember when she told the participants that “responsibility” has two meanings (responsible to and responsible for) and related this concept to the Jeju Uprising. Responsible for means assigning blame for something through a fair judicial process. It is a complex process because perpetrators can be more than one people or many people. Responsible to means to act according to one’s responsibility. What are the legal duties of a government, an individual? What are the moral duties?
Then she explained the story of how the US was ‘responsible to’ the Jeju 4.3 incident. The country has established two committees – the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea and the Interim Committee of the General Assembly (aka the “Little Assembly”) – as part of its responsibility.
I always feel amazed at how Korea commemorates its past atrocities, such as Jeju massacre and the May 18 Uprising. The government apologized and even built a large cemetery, museum, and monument to recount the incident to the younger generation. I realized that it took a long time for the Korean government to admit their past mishap but I still very much respect them for what they have done for the victims. Compared to Korea, Indonesia is still quiet about its gloomy history and up to this writing, a formal apology has yet to be announced for hundreds of thousands of victims of the 1965-66 massacre in my country.
*Some parts of their reflection were omitted.