Gareth Evans: Truth of US fault in Jeju massacre must be conveyed

Jun 11, 2023
Gareth_Evans_University_of_Melbourne_c. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia received the fifth annual Jeju 4.3 Peace Prize presented by the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation.

To achieve true reconciliation regarding the Jeju April 3 Incident, the US government must take responsibility for its historical wrongdoing in the same way as the Korean government, argues Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia. The US’ key role will be acknowledging responsibility and apologising, he says.

These remarks came on the first day of the 18th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity held at the International Convention Center Jeju in Seogwipo during the “Making the Solution of Jeju 4.3 a Global Model: Truth, Reconciliation and Solidarity” session hosted by the Jeju 4.3 Research Institute.

The previous day, Evans received the fifth annual Jeju 4.3 Peace Prize presented by the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation. Evans was awarded the prize for his involvement in the conclusion of the Paris Peace Agreements that brought peace and an end to civil war in Cambodia, an opportunity which he seized to create the international “responsibility to protect” norm in 2005 that enables the UN to intervene in order to protect civilians in the event of state-sponsored genocide. Evans has also been involved in peace work such as nuclear nonproliferation and banning chemical weapons.

The 4.3 Peace Prize Special Award was awarded to painter Kang Yo-bae for his contribution to informing people about the Jeju April 3 Incident through his “History of People’s Uprising in Jeju” and “The Camellia Has Fallen” series of works in the 1990s.

Efforts to inform the international community of the tragic history that took place 70 years ago in Jeju must be taken, Evans argued.

“If mass atrocity crimes of the kind that occurred here on Jeju are not remembered and seared into the nation’s and the world’s consciousness, [. . .] then the prospect is all too real that these horrors will recur again, that people will fail to recognise the early warning signs of catastrophe before it is too late, and that we will fail as an international community to develop the kind of prevention and response strategies that minimise that risk,” he said.

Expressing concern about the movement to reveal the truth about crimes against humanity weakening in the international community, Evans said that the truth of and responsibility for the Jeju April 3 Incident must be conveyed to the international community so that it may serve as a basis for the creation of principles for solving these sorts of problems.

Evans argued that the level of responsibility the US should bear for the Jeju April 3 Incident must be explicitly stated based on historical evidence, and blame should be clearly assigned through fact-finding work.

The former foreign minister stressed that the US is “failing to properly acknowledge this responsibility.” Accordingly, he said, we must urge the US to acknowledge its responsibility in ethical and moral terms by thoroughly bringing the truth to light through evidence.

Evans recalled the moment when former German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland, in December 1971, and noted how the world remembers how Germany has continued to apologise for the Holocaust. He suggested that Japan should take a leaf out of Germany’s book and apologise for the horrific brutalities it committed in colonies in the past.

Furthermore, Evans suggested that, in the same way that President Barack Obama paid respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Biden should express a similar sentiment with regard to the uprising and massacre in Jeju 70 years ago. Doing so will make the US a nation that “warrants respect,” he said, and will serve to bolster the alliance between Korea and the US.

During a press conference after the fact, Evans called for accountability from the US government with regard to the massacre of Jeju citizens during the Jeju April 3 Incident.

Saying that while it may appear impossible for the US government to share responsibility for the Jeju April 3 Incident in the same manner as the Korean government, Evans noted that what is clear is that the specific nature of US responsibility must be revealed. Real conciliation is about acknowledging and accepting one’s own mistakes, he stressed.

In his acceptance speech for the peace prize, Evans emphasised the “necessity to retain memory of the worst if we are to progress at all toward achieving the best.”

“If we fail to remember the indescribable horror and misery that is involved in any major war, we are at profound risk of sleepwalking into another,” he said of the need to improve global and regional performance when it comes to conflict prevention and response.

Evans also brought up the recent Korea-US summit.

“South Korea is closer to the eye of the storm than my own country, and most others,” he said. “Your preoccupation with North Korea’s ever-increasing nuclear weapon capability and endless rhetorical belligerence is perfectly understandable.”

But he cautioned against heeding the “many domestic voices” that are arguing for South Korea to arm itself with nuclear weapons. “For that to happen would be disastrous for the global non-proliferation regime, and with it your country’s international reputation, while doing little or nothing to actually enhance your security.”

Evans expressed concern about Presidents Joe Biden of the US and Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea having “doubled down on their commitment to nuclear deterrence,” saying, “What South Korea, like Australia, should focus on ensuring in all our alliances with the US is not extended nuclear deterrence, with all [the] enormous risks that entails, but extended conventional deterrence.”

“If we want to build a worldwide culture of peace, there is a crucial need not only for us to remember what has gone so badly wrong in the past, but to stay optimistic about changing things for the better,” Evans stressed. “I’m sure that this is the spirit which sustained the people of Jeju during those long decades of government denial and suppression of the truth, before democracy and decency finally prevailed. I know it is the spirit which will sustain the effort to universalise the Jeju model of truth, reconciliation, and international solidarity.”

In the closing session of the Jeju Forum on the afternoon of June 2, Evans spoke with Governor Oh Young-hun of Jeju on the topic of “Promoting the Culture of Peace.”

 

Republished from HANKYOREH MANI.CO.KR June 2, 2023

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