South Korea

Pope sends message commemorating Korea's bloody Jeju Uprising

For decades, details on mass killings by security forces were covered up

ucanews.com reporter, Seoul

Updated: April 05, 2018 11:30 AM GMT

Pope Francis during a weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square on April 4. (Photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

Pope Francis has sent a message of healing and reconciliation to Koreans commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Jeju Uprising and subsequent massacres which resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians.

[Pope Francis] hopes that this occasion will foster healing and reconciliation, wrote Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state, in a letter made public by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK).

Entrusting the beloved Korean people to the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, I assure all present of my prayers, that they may persevere in hope, said the letter.

The April 3 uprising by communists on the southern island of Jeju occurred after the division of the Korean Peninsula. It erupted in 1948 and escalated with atrocities being committed, predominantly by the security forces. It lasted from 1948-1954 and was part of Korea's ideological division following liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

A government-backed committee last year found that 10,244 were killed during the uprising and just over 3,500 were declared missing. Other accounts put the death toll as much higher. 

For decades, the South Korean government covered up what occurred. The mass killings committed by security forces weren't admitted until the 1990s.

An CBCK official said: It is an extraordinary act by the pontiff sending his message about a certain issue that the local church is paying attention to.

A Special Committee for the Jeju April 3 Uprising by Cheju Diocese and CBCK committees for justice and peace and reconciliation of Korean peoples jointly announced the 'Jeju April 3 Uprising Special Commemoration Week' from April 1 to 7.

As part of the week, the CBCK conducted a commemoration Mass at Seoul's Myeongdong Cathedral celebrated by Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, the CBCK president.

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