Prosecutors request dismissal of indictments against defendants connected with Jeju Uprising

Posted on : 2018-12-18 17:09 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Jeju Prosecutors’ Office acknowledges complicated truth behind official narrative
The first retrial of defendants convicted in connection with the Jeju Uprising with their attorney in front of the Jeju District Court on Oct. 29
The first retrial of defendants convicted in connection with the Jeju Uprising with their attorney in front of the Jeju District Court on Oct. 29

“It’s too late now, but I sincerely hope this occasion can be used for healing the pain of all of you here today, of all the people who suffered inerasable wounds to their bodies and minds and who have endured lives of frustration and tears. I request a decision to dismiss the indictments against all of the defendants.”

Prosecutors at a Dec. 17 hearing for the retrial of 18 people convicted in connection with the Jeju Uprising of 1948–49 made an unusual request: appearing before Hon. Jegal Chang of Jeju District Court’s second criminal division that day, they asked the court to dismiss their own indictment.

As if in response, attorney Im Jae-seong delivered a closing argument expressing the “wish that the defendants have their indictment dismissed or be found not guilty.” The Criminal Procedure Act states that a court may rule to dismiss an indictment when the prosecutors’ procedures used in presenting it are found to be in violation of legal regulations and therefore invalid.

The first retrial of the Jeju April 3 convicts came to a close following five pre-trial questioning dates since February and four hearings since the proceedings were started. After observing the process over the past year, the prosecutors opted to request that the indictments be dropped rather than requesting a guilty verdict and sentences.

“As a trial prosecutor, I have heard about the defendants’ experience throughout the trial and examined records and literature from the time, and this has forced me personally to give deep consideration to the historical significance of the April 3 incident and its effects on all Jeju residents, of which I was previously unaware,” said Jeong Gwang-byeong of the Jeju District Prosecutors’ Office.

“What I realized in that process was a different version of the truth from what I had known and learned before. I learned that this place Jeju is mixed with the tears and spirits of countless family members who have wept in unspeakable pain for decades since losing their parents and children,” he continued.

“Leaving behind the philosophical controversy over Jeju April 3, no one could have denied the unhealed suffering of the Jeju residents who lost their lives in the chaotic period after liberation, or the family members who have had to keep that wordlessly hidden away in their hearts,” the prosecutor said.

“For the past year, I have approached this trial in the sincere hope of sharing in some small way in the bitter suffering of these people, and in the suffering of history and the Korean nation, and to bring the truth of what happened then to light as much as possible,” he added.

Additional burden on prosecutors to make criminal case without proper documents

Prosecutors also faced an additional burden in having to prove their criminal case without arraignments, hearing records, verdicts, or other investigation and trial documents.

“The prosecutors accepted the retrial decision and approached this trial having determined that it was not right for the state to shift responsibility for the lack of remaining records onto the defendants,” Jeong said.

“There were many difficulties in conducting this trial without records,” he admitted.

Jeong went on to explain that the decision to establish the charges through questioning of the defendants in view of the lack of evidence was “not intended to cause unnecessary suffering for the elderly defendants.”

“This was a meaningful process of preserving their experience and memories for history while duly guaranteeing them their right to a trial according to the Constitution,” he said.

Military courts-martial of 1948-49 in violation of law and based on torture

Representing the defendants, attorney Im Jae-seong explained, “The military courts-martial of 1948 and 1949 were trials in violation of the law, based on torture and illegal detention without any evidence whatsoever.”

“The guilty rulings at the time was a case of civilians during Jeju April 3 being framed as ‘the enemy’ and of trials being used as a way of ‘handling the enemy,’ without upholding even the minimum standards that should be observed in judicial proceedings in a civilized country,” he continued.

Im described the unfair incarceration of the 18 defendants as “death sentences executed by means of the law rather than guns.”

“While [the case] may be referred for trial, the people convicted should be found not guilty or have their indictments dismissed,” he said.

Defendants express desire to be acquitted

Final statements ensured from the April 3 defendants themselves.

“I want to thank Your Honor,” said defendant Park Dong-su.

“I truly committed no crime,” stressed Im Chang-ui.

“I came here because I felt very unfairly treated,” said Hyeon Woo-ryong.

“Please help ensure for my grandchildren that there is no record stating that their grandmother has a criminal history and spent time in prison,” said Kim Pyeong-guk.

All of the defendants shared their hope for an acquittal.

“The path we have traveled to this point has been a tremendously perilous and difficult. What the 18 of us want is to be acquitted,” said Yang Geun-bang in a final statement as the retrial arguments concluded.

The court is scheduled to deliver sentencing for the first retrial of the Jeju April 3 defendants on Jan. 17, 2019.
 
By Kim Min-kyoung, staff reporter

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