It’s freezing. The wind is blowing approximately 100 miles per hour by my very scientific estimation. We are standing in a shallow crater, that we will soon learn was once filled with bodies. The man explaining all of this to us is from Jeju, and must have told this story hundreds of times at this point. He is somber, but not visibly sad. This is not the first massacre site we’ve visited today. It won’t be the last.
We walk through a low maze of tiny hills. There are some small toys littered about. He tells us these are the unmarked graves of children. These graves were supposed to be temporary, until the families could return under the cloak of nightfall to secretly move their children to the individual family cemeteries. But upon returning the families couldn’t distinguish which graves were which, so the children remain together until this day. If I hadn’t been told, I would assume it was simply a natural garden. I feel sick to my stomach again.
We walk down the street to a local elementary school. On the way there our guide stops to pick a white flower. He tells us to smell it and that it is good for sleeping. This is a moment of respite in a very heavy day.
We arrive at the elementary school. There is a big soccer field and a playground. The guide tells us we are standing in yet another massacre site. Innocent mothers and children were shot and killed here, at this elementary school. Another chill runs up my spine. I don’t know if it’s from the wind or the story. The guide tells us that he attended this school. So does his son.
We walk back to the cars. Everyone is pretty quiet, the heaviness of the day and the cold weighing us down. The drive back to the house exists in a dream like state in my head. I’m not ready to process everything I learned today.
For great resources to learn more about the Jeju 4.3 Uprising and Massacre please visit http://jeju43peace.org/