Cheju Massacra Memorial

South Korea



On August 20th of 1950, soon after the outbreak of the Korean War, nearly two hundred educated men and women of Cheju Island were gathered, accused of “unclean thoughts” of communism and executed without a trial. It is believed that President Syngman Rhee and his supporters needed to flee to the island because of advancing North Korean troops, but wanted to eliminate critics there prior to their arrival.

To help reflect upon this tragedy, a few ideas for a memorial were proposed to the Baek Cho Il Son Victim’s Family Association. All four ideas preserve the trench where the executions and mass burial occurred, which was recently excavated in search for the truth. The first two ideas were inspired by the traditional mound tombs of Cheju, but were inverted to suggest the emptiness and the loss of those left behind, as well as to imply the grave that was hand-dug by the victims themselves. The third idea was to allow the visitors to actually occupy the trench. The fourth idea was to create a rusted steel wall, embedded in the earth to symbolize the unified flesh, blood and bones of the victims rising as one.