First Official US Recognition of the Jeju Massacre

US State Department called the Jeju Massacre a "terrible tragedy."

First Official US Recognition of the Jeju Massacre

Image: Memorial statue of the Jeju Massacre in the April 3 Peace Park in Jeju-do Province. Credit: Jeju April 3 Peace Foundation.

The United States called the Jeju Massacre “a terrible tragedy” in its first official recognition of the Syngman Rhee 이승만 era atrocity. In what is also known as the April 3 Incident 4.3 사건, the Rhee dictatorship massacred as many as 30k civilians on the southern island of Jeju-do 제주도 between 1947 and 1949 on the suspicion that they were communists. Acting with the direct approval of United States occupying forces on Jeju under Colonel Rothwell Brown, Rhee’s military and police killed 10% of the island’s population and destroyed nearly 60% of Jeju’s 400 villages. (See previous coverage, “Remembering the Jeju Massacre.”)

In response to an email inquiry by the Hankyoreh 한겨레신문, the US State Department replied: “The Jeju incident of 1948 was a terrible tragedy, and we should never forget the devastating loss of life. As close allies committed to democratic values and promoting human rights, the United States shares the resolve of the Republic of Korea to work together to prevent such tragedies in the future anywhere around the world.” The email is the first written acknowledgment of the Jeju Massacre by the United States, 77 years after the killing began.

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