Politicidal Violence and the Problematics of Localized Memory at Civilian Massacre Sites: The Cheju 4.3 Peace Park and the Kŏch'ang Incident Memorial Park

Brendan Wright, University of British Columbia
"Tombstones for the Missing" ("Haengp'urimp'yosŏk"), 2014. Photo taken by the author.
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This article examines two South Korean sites dedicated to the remembrance of Korean War–era civilian massacres, the Cheju 4.3 Peace Park and the Kŏch’ang Incident Memorial Park. Specifically, the article explores the sites’ localized, victim-centric epistemology as one that counters nationalist discourses and narratives that privilege the state. While acknowledging that these sites offer a physical mnemonic space for challenging the hegemonic “June 25” (yugio) narrative, the author suggests that, in their narrow spatial and ideological orientation, these sites cumulatively fall short of offering a cohesive narrative of the politicidal, anti-Communist state-building project of which they are a consequence. Though of tremendous value in restoring victims’ honor, critiquing human rights abuses of the Republic of Korea, and giving a voice to marginalized groups, these spaces fail to provide historical clarity to a distorted era of South Korea’s past. In addressing this problematic, the article examines the role of family bereavement associations, narrative constructions, and the silencing of the National Guidance League Incident  at these locations.

Keywords: Korean War, civilian massacres, politicide, politics of memory, anti-Communism, Cheju 4.3 Peace Park, Kŏch’ang Incident Memorial Park