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최종편집 : 2024.04.22 월 19:31
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[Desk Column] Remembering April: Reflections on Historical Tragedie
제 215 호    발행일 : 2024.04.22 
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  April, when spring is full of vitality, is a brilliant sight with green and colorful flowers under the warm sunlight, but my heart to welcome it is infinitely heavy.
  April 3 marks the Jeju 4·3 massacre, a massacre committed by state authorities throughout Jeju for 7 years and 7 months, starting from the incident in which six residents were killed by police on March 1, 1947, and continuing until Sept. 21, 1954. It is a day to commemorate. The Jeju 4·3 Incident resulted in severe casualties during the armed conflict between the armed forces and the punitive forces. The official number of victims is 14,738 as of 2023, but an independent report estimates the human casualties at 25,000 to 30,000. More than 1/10 of Jeju Islandʼs population lost their lives. The pain of Jeju 4·3 is that the sacrifices of those who died or went missing at the time were passed down to their bereaved families. These families have been monitored and restricted from social activities by association. This incident, which had the second-highest loss of life after the Korean War, required an official apology from the president and an investigation into the truth only after half a century had passed. Even today, the victims’ honor is being restored.
  On April 15 this year, I remember April 15, 1919. At that time, as the March 1st Independence Movement Day movement intensified, the Japanese military oppressed the residents with arson, violence, murder, and torture. Among these, the Jeam-ri Massacre that occurred at Jeam Church in Hwaseong on April 15, 1919 is considered the most brutal incident of Japanese colonized of civilians. The Imperial Japanese army locked the residents of Jeam-ri in the church, set it on fire, shot and killed those who ran outside, and burned the entire village. According to records, 23 people died in the church alone, and 6 residents of nearby Goju-ri also died. Even 100 years later, the Japanese government has not made an official apology.
  On April 16, I remember the day 10 years ago in 2014, when the Sewol Ferry capsized and sank. That is when, Danwon High School students on a school trip, teachers, and the general public were on board the ship. The toll was devastating, with 304 lives lost out of the 476 individuals aboard. Even after a decade has passed, the memories of that day remain vivid. After school, I turned on the TV and saw a sinking ship. I was relieved to hear that everyone had been rescued, but this was a false report. After that, the number of rescued people did not increase, and in the end, it was a big shock to see the sunk ship. As a sixth-grade elementary school student, my own school trip was abruptly canceled due to the tragedy that struck just before our departure. Despite any personal disappointment, I couldn't find it in myself to voice any complaints in the face of such profound loss. How could I, or anyone, adequately respond to the weight of 304 lives lost? The aftermath of the accident continued for some time. Two of the divers searching for the Sewol Ferry lost their lives in an accident, and divers suffered injuries and depression, and even lost colleagues to suicide. Over the course of 10 years, the bereaved families appealed for the truth to be revealed by shaving their heads and fasting, and a special law was enacted for this purpose. On this April 18, an amendment to the Sewol Ferry Special Act, which extends the period of medical support for victims of the Sewol Ferry disaster, including divers, was submitted to the plenary session of the National Assembly.
  On April 19, I go back to 1960. A democratization movement took place across the country from Feb. 28 to April 26, 1960, in protest against the constitutional violations, corruption, and rigged elections of the Syngman Rhee regime, which had been in power for 12 years at the time. Kim Ju-yeol, a 17-year-old student who participated in the election fraud protest, was killed by a tear gas canister fired by the police, which became the spark for the revolution. The April 19 Revolution, in which 186 citizens and students died and about 6,000 were injured, was the first civil revolution in constitutional history to protect liberal democracy and is the seed of todayʼs democracy. Unfortunately, although it is a democracy that was protected with blood, it has recently been selected as a country in the process of dictatorship following President Yoon Suk-yeol’s rise to power, raising awareness in society.
  As a brilliant spring unfolds around us, it's undeniable that our society still grapples with the lingering wounds of the past. There are many remaining tasks, including uncovering the truth and restoring the honor of the victims. However, the slow pace still does not comfort the victimsʼ families from the pain of that day. My heart weighs heavy as I contemplate the plight of the bereaved one, who find themselves once again engulfed in sorrow and longing amidst the blossoming of another spring. Every April, I am overcome by a somber sentiment, as I dedicate this time to honoring the countless souls lost to history and bear the weight of shame and responsibility for a society that continues to progress at a sluggish pace.
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