Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Sunday, December 06, 2015

History of U.S. Occupation and Massacre on Jeju Island

Yesterday our Veterans For Peace delegation took a tour of the Jeju April 3 Peace Park and Museum.  

The Jeju Island April 3rd incident broke out during the US military occupation at the end of WW II and lasted for seven years.  The Jeju April 3rd massacre resulted in the loss of more than 30,000 lives due to the US Army directed counter-insurgency campaign.

After gaining independence from Japan in 1945, Korea was in turmoil due to the failure of the policies of the US military administration.  The US placed former Koreans, who had collaborated with the previous Japanese fascist occupation, in charge of the country.  Army officer Lt. Col. Dean Rusk (who later became US Secretary of State) made the arbitrary decision where to put the dividing line between North and South Korea.  The US then tried to force elections in the south but people who wanted real democracy in Korea rose up in protest.  The US painted all these protests as communists and began the counter-insurgency campaign that killed more than 100,000 people throughout the country.

On Jeju Island the largely independent-minded peasant population was targeted by the US Army which directed a massive round-up of the people.  Jeju people were also protesting the US forced election in the south saying they had been betrayed as their demand for true democracy and real independence had been denied.  The US directed the newly formed 'Korean Constabulary' (largely made up of right-wing forces) and began the slaughter of the people on Jeju.  Villages were burned to the ground, people were forced into concentration camps, and over the next several years the extermination campaign began.

The story of the Jeju massacre was kept quiet and most people throughout Korea knew nothing about the tragic events until the full history finally emerged during the pro-democracy movement in the 1990's.  On Jeju Island families were severely punished if they ever spoke of the April 3 massacre so the truth was essentially covered up for generations.

The tragic story of the April 3 massacre takes on even greater meaning when you consider the forced construction of the Navy base in Gangjeong village that will port Pentagon warships in Obama's 'pivot' of 60% of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific to encircle China.  The resistance to the Navy base, now heading into its 9th year, is truly an outgrowth of the long-simmering resistance on Jeju Island to the US brutal colonization and domination of Korea which still continues to this very day.


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