On 14 January 2020, “Proclaiming February 3, 2020, as President Syngman Rhee Day for the City and County of Honolulu”(No. 20-7) was submitted to the Honolulu City Council. The Association for Bereaved Families of the Jeju 4.3 Victims, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War and 252 South Korean NGOs sent a letter to the Honolulu City Council Members, expressing our deep concerns on the resolution. Proclaiming a day to remember Syngman Rhee by the Honolulu City Council is a denial of the history of the Korean people’s resistance for democracy and freedom and an insult to victims and the bereaved families of the massacres.
Fortunately, the Honolulu City Council decided to cancel the resolution before it is to be discussed at the meeting on 21 January. Thanks to all the efforts by bereaved families association, activists in Hawaii and also civil society groups in Korea :)
To Honolulu City Council Members,
The Association for Bereaved Families of the Jeju 4.3 Victims, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War and 251 South Korean NGOs deeply deplore the Resolution “Proclaiming February 3, 2020, as President Syngman Rhee Day for the City and County of Honolulu”(No. 20-7) which was introduced on January 14, 2020. We are deeply concerned about this resolution for three main reasons. Firstly, Syngman Rhee who was the first president of the Republic of Korea, is responsible for the killing of 30,000 Jeju islanders between 1947 and 1954(during the Jeju April 3rd Massacre). Secondly, he is responsible for the massacres of one million civilians during the Korean War (1950~1953), and finally, he illegally amended the Constitution in 1954, aiming for long-term seizure of power and initiated fraudulent election in 1960. As a result of his actions, series of national protests were held around April 19, 1960, calling for Mr. Rhee’s resignation and therefore, Syngman Rhee was forced to resign on April 26, 1960. Hence, proclaiming a day to remember Syngman Rhee by the Honolulu City Council is a denial of the history of the Korean people’s resistance for democracy and freedom and an insult to victims and the bereaved families of the massacres.
From 1947 to 1954, around 30,000 people (10% of Jeju Island’s population at the time) were massacred. The massacre was a result of severe crack-down against Jeju islanders who protested against the division of the country and police oppression by Syngman Rhee’s administration and the US military who held an operational control over the South Korean military and police. In 2000, the “Special Act on Discovering the Truth of the Jeju 4·3 Incident and the Restoration of Honor of Victims” was enacted and accordingly, the National Committee for the Investigation of the Truth about the Jeju April 3rd Incident under the office of the Prime Minister was established. The report published by the National Committee in 2003 clearly mentioned that Syngman Rhee is responsible for the Jeju April 3rd Massacre.
During the Korean War between 1950 and 1953, President Rhee Syngman’s government indiscriminately and arbitrarily killed civilians without any legal evidence only because they may have cooperated with the North Korean People's Army. During this process, around 1 million people were massacred including people who were against the Rhee administration. In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was established by the Framework Act for Truth and Reconciliation confirmed that innocent civilians were massacred by the state forces, followed by a number of testimonies that President Rhee ordered “executing members of the South Korean Labor Party and the Bodo League members”.
In addition, while the first Constitution of South Korea stipulated that the President could be reelected only once, President Rhee Syngman and the then ruling party retrogressively amended the Constitution in 1954, in a way to allow the first president to be reelected multiple times. At that time, the draft amendment was rejected as it failed to meet the quorum, but President Rhee Syngman and the then ruling party arbitrarily calculated the quorum and forced to amend the Constitution illegally. This allowed President Rhee Syngman’s long-term seizure of power. This amendment denied the spirit of democracy and violated the Constitution.
President Rhee Syngman is a Korean politician who acted against democracy and freedom and who was not held responsible for the mass killing of civilians, fraudulent elections, illegal amendment of the Constitution and several cases of enforced disappearance and torture leading to the death of his opponents. As a result, President Rhee was expelled by the people’s power, people who sacrificed their lives for democracy and freedom on April 26, 1960.
In this regard, we strongly urge members of the Honolulu City Council to reject Resolution No. 20-7 to proclaim President Syngman Rhee Day. If the day is proclaimed, the Bereaved Families of the Jeju 4.3 Victims and the Korean War, and South Korean civil society organizations will continue to fight to withdraw the decision and to bring justice for the victims and raise awareness about the truth of President Rhee Syngman’s presidency and actions.
For more information or further inquiries, please contact Ms. Gayoon Baek (Memorial Committee for the Jeju April 3rd Uprising and Massacre, firstname.lastname@example.org).
This letter is endorsed by 252 organizations below:
Bereaved Families Associations
Association for Bereaved Families of Daegu October Uprising, Association for Bereaved Family of Gyeongsan Cobalt, Association for Bereaved Family of the June 25 War, Association for the Bereaved Families of Yeosun Resistance, Association for the Bereaved Families of Yeosun Resistance Bosung regional branch, Association for the Bereaved Families of Yeosun Resistance Seoul regional branch, Association for the Bereaved Families of Yeosun Resistance Suncheon regional branch, Association for the Bereaved Families of Jeju 4.3 victims, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War Cheonbuk regional branch, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War Soonchang regional branch, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War Youngam regional branch, Pan National Association for Bereaved Family of Korean War
Civil Society Organizations
4.16 Global Networks- Atlanta, Alumni of 8th Class Strawberry Farming, School of Agriculture, Nonsan Agriculture Technology Center, Angels, Artfield Siuteo, Association for Maseok Democracy Martyr, Association for succeeding Daejeon Democracy Movement, Association of Gangjeong Villagers against the Jeju Navy Base, Association of Labor Attorneys for Labor Rights Jeju Office, Association to Preserve Late Jin A-young's house, Atlanta SaSaSe, Bereaved Family Association of Korean War, Beyond Education Gimcheon, Busan Anti-Poverty Center, Busan Foreign Language University Alumni Association of Democracy, Busan Human Rights Forum, Busan National University Alumni Association of Democracy, Busan People searching for Songs, Busan Women Association, Catholic Human Rights Committee, Catholic Justice and Peace Committee Chooncheon Diocese, Catholic Justice and Peace Committee Daejeon Diocese, Ch4.3, Chaekbul Association to realize Candlelight Revolution, Chamsalyi Village Church, CheungJu YWCA icoop co-operatives, Choongnam National University Alumni Association of Democracy, Citizens' Gathering for the Establishment of a Nation, Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice Jeju, Civilian Military Watch, Conscience and Human Rights-NAMU, Corea Catholic Farmers Movement, Damyang Human Rights Support Counselling Center, Dasan Human Rights Center, Disabled Peoples' International Jeju in Korea, DongA University Alumni Association of Democracy, Donghwa High School, Eumsung People's Alliance, Following footsept of Martyr Kim Dong-do, Following footsept of Martyr Kim Jun-bae Jangheong office, Forum Truth & Justice, Gangjeong Friends, Gangjeong UK, Gangjeong Village International Team-Jeju Island, Geumjeung Cave Human Rights and Peace Foundation, Gijang Human Rights and Society Research Institute, GKT, Goeun Parents' House, Gotjawal People, Gumin Presbyterian Church, Guri Namyangju Citizens' Alliance, Gwangju Action, Gwangju University Alumni Association of Democracy in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province Social Economy Support Association, Gyeongsung University Alumni Association of Democracy, Haksan (Yoon Yoon-gi) Memorial Committee, Hansalim Jeju, Hope Coalition of New York, Houston Sewol HAMBI, Human and Land Farm, Human Rights Commission of Won Buddhism, Human Rights Movement Space ‘Hwal’, Humanities Schole, Hyungmyung Foundation, iCOOP Halla, iCOOP Jeju, Incheon Democracy Memorial Center, Incorporated Organization Silcheon Bulgyo, Injae University Alumni Association of Democracy, Institute for Democratic Society, Institute for Medicine and Human Rights•Kim Keun-Tae Memorial Healing Center, Ireland Candlelight Action, Jeju 4.3 Commentary Association, Jeju April 3rd People's Solidarity, Jeju April 3rd Research Institute, Jeju Archive for Democratization Movement, Jeju Association for Women's Rights, Jeju Dark Tours, Jeju Disability Rights Forum, Jeju Ecotourism Association, Jeju Ecotravel, Jeju National University Alumni Association of Democracy, Jeju Peace Human Rights Institute WHAT, Jeju Peace Humanrights Center, Jeju People on Mainland, Jeju People's Artist Federation, Jeju Research Association for Alternative Society, Jeju Solidarity for Participatory Self-government & Environmental Preservation, Jeju Sovereignty Alliance for Peace and Unification, Jeju Women's Association, Jeju YMCA, Jeju Young Korean Academy, Jeju Youth Group for Unification, Jeju Youth Social Cooperative, Jeju YWCA, Jeonnam National University Alumni Association of Democracy, Jigeum Church, Joseongeum, June 15 Academic Center, "KANCC (Korean American National Coordinating Council)", KCJ Institute on International Relations, Kim Dae-jung Memorial Committee Busan, "KIN(Korean International Network)", Kindness Local and City Network Movement, Koomin church, Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements Suncheon, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements Yeosu, Korea International Peace Forum, Korea is One, Korea Maritime & Ocean University Alumni Association of Democracy, Korea National Foundation, Korea Peace & Unification Action of Boston, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Jeju Regional Branch, Korean Council for Compensation for the Victims WWII, Korean Council For Democratic Martyr, Korean Federation for Environmental Movement Jeju, Korean Government Employees' Union, Korean Government Employees' Union - Busan office, Korean Government Employees' Union - Pocheon city office, Korean House for International Solidarity, Korean National Council of Sovereignty, Korean New Zealanders for a Better Future, Korean Peace Artist Solidarity, Korean Peasant Association Jeju, Korean People Artists Federation Gongju Branch, Korean Teachers' Union, Korean Teachers' Union - Gongju office, Korean Teachers' Union - Jeju office, Korean Teachers' Union - Seoul office Unification Committee, Korean Teachers' Union - Yeosu office, Korean Women's Peasant Association Jeju, Korean Youth Center Jeju Office, Koreans Global Solidarity, K-PA Global Network, Kyugnam Association of Korean Wheat Producers, Life & Safety Network, Life and Peace Forum, Luciddream culture & arts cooprative, Majungmul, Martyre Yang Yong-Chan Memorial Association, Memorial Committee for Busan Democratization Resistance, Memorial Committee for Jangheung Donghak Farmer's Revolution, Memorial Committee for the Jeju April 3rd Uprising and Massacre, Metka Korea, MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society International Solidarity Committee, Minjok Ilbo Memorial Committee, Mongyang Academy, Mongyang Lyuh Woon-hyung Memorial Committee, MooAn Women Counselling Center, Mukgamchon, Munjimo, National institutes of Hahm SokHon Philosophy, National School Precarious Workers Union - Busan office, National Women’s' Alliance, Neungnae Church, Neutinamu Medical Personnel Association, New Jersey 416 Yellow Ribbon, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, One Heart for Justice, Our Rural Revival Movement, Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea, Pan National Committee for the Jeju April 3rd Uprising and Massacre, Peace Group, Peace Momo, Peace Mothers of Korea, Peace Travellers, Peoples' Association for Succeeding Democratization Movement, People Making Jeju a Demilitarized Peace Island, People of Geumjeonggu, People Power to change Busan DANDELION, People's Path Korea National Foundation, People's Solidarity for Self-Governing in Jeju, Public Education Officers Daegu Branch, Public Policy Research Center NANUM, Rainbow Action Against Sexual-Minority Discrimination, Real Sharing of Gimpo Moms, Remembering Sewol UK, Research Center for Jeju Culture N History Commentary, Research Group for Roh Moo-hyun's Progressive Ideas, RIUSRS, Roh Moo Hyun Foundation Jeju Commission, S.P.Ring Indianapolis, Sabuzak Coop, Samwol-i, Samyang Citizens Network, SARAM Center for Human Rights, SASASE Ottawa, Seattle Evergreen Coalition, Seogwipo Citizens Alliance, Seogwipo Women's Association, Seongjo Taesamo, Seoul City University Alumni Association of Democracy, Seoul Gangseo Yangcheon Education Hope Network, Seoul National University Alumni Association of Democracy, Siwoori Presbyterian Church, Social Reform Community of Won Buddhism, Solidarity for Independent Peaceful Reunification of Korea, Solidarity of Korean people in Europe, SPARK Incheon, Sungkyunkwan University Alumni Association of Democracy, Sungsil University Alumni Association of Democracy, Sunlit Sidters' Center, Support Committee for Prisoners of Conscience, Support Committee for Prisoners of Conscience for Justice, Peace and Human Rights, Suwon 2049 Citizens' Research Center, Teenager Startup Co-Working in Korea, Tent Villagers in front of Jeju Special Self-Government Provincial Office, Tetterwort Library, The April Unification & Peace Foundation, The Book with a View, The Center for Historical Truth and Justice, The Center for Historical Truth and Justice Bucheon, The Center for Historical Truth and Justice LA Branch, The Forest of Life in Busan, The Green Party Jeju, The Hankyoreh Shareholder Readers Club in Busan, The Least of These Church (NYC), The Society of Jesus, The Solidarity for Green Education of Ecological Life, The Truth Foundation, Torch Citizens Alliance, Unification Advisory Council of LA, Unification Advisory Council of New York, Unification Advisory Council of Seattle, United for Gijichon(US military bases in South Korea) Women's Human Rights", United Neighbors, Veterans For Peace #021 NJ, WBMB, We All Together Citizens' Alliance, Woori History School, Yangsan Institute for Traditional Korean Cultural Studies, Yeosoo-Sooncheon Citizens Movement R&D, Yeosu Community Research Institute, Yeosu Migrant Women’s' Shelter, Yeosun Resistance Commentary Association, Yeosun Resistance Lecturers Association, Yi-eum, Young Korean Academy Goyang & Paju Branch