Remembering Sun-i Samchon
Remembering Sun-i Samchon
  • 승인 2014.05.13 10:06
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Sun-i Samchon is the name of the character of Hyun Ki-young’s novella whose title comes from her name. The name itself confuses the readers who have not been exposed to Jeju island’s culture and language, because the male title of Samchon is attached to the probably most representative woman’s name. However, in Jeju Samchon (uncle) has been used to refer to a male or female relative. So the title reminds the readers of the fact that Jeju has a peculiar culture and language different from the mainland Korea which shares similar cultural and linguistic environment resulting from the standardization policy.
Sun-i Samchon records what happened the Bukchonri Massacre which occurred in 1949 about one year after the 4.3 Jeju Uprising was initiated by the clash between the armed youth of the South Korean Communist Party and the police force. During the 4.3 Uprising about thirty thousands casualties were made and that is one tenth of the Jeju population at that period. Sun-i Samchon is a survivor of the Bukchonri Massacre which was initiated by the police’s tactic to evacuate the village to search for the guerrillas and their supporters. Almost all of the villagers were ordered to gather at a school playground and were categorized to enforce the evacuation mandate. About five hundred of the villagers were killed at Sun-i Samchon’s patch. Sun-i Samchon survived the massacre and has led her life with deep scar in her mind.
However, she shows some eccentric behaviors in her latter day. The narrator of the novella who visits his hometown to join the memorial service has already experienced her eccentric behaviors in Seoul, where she once lived to take care of his household. On the memorial day he finds that Sun-i Samchon committed suicide at her patch at which she had once almost killed in the Massacre. The narrator recalls her eccentric behaviors and obsessiveness were caused by the guilty conscience as a survivor. The trauma left on her mind long time ago claimed her life in the long run. Then her life after experienced the Massacre had been that of a ghost.
The ghost of Sun-i Samchon is still seeking for our interest and remembrance. Fortunately, the Jeju 4.3 Speical Act passed the legislature on January 12, 2000 and this year 4.3 Uprising was designated as a national commemoration day. Given that the author of the novella was arrested and tortured after publishing the novella in 1978 due to Korean government’s policy of ideological taboo, our society has taken broad steps to come to accept its responsibility. However, as time passes, we are forgetting our responsibility for the victims and their request for remembering what happened to them. In this April we would like to challenge the young Geonjians to commemorate thousands of Sun-i Samchons and as the first step to meet her by reading the novella, Sun-i Samchon.

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