Jan. 17 (UPI) -- South Korean survivors of a bloody crackdown on the southern island of Jeju in 1948, who were formally charged with insurrection, have been acquitted more than 70 years after imprisonment.
Jeju District Court said Thursday charges against 18 residents of the island detained and often tortured at the hands of anti-communist police from 1948 to 1954 are to be dismissed, Seoul Shinmun reported.
Military courts at the time "did not go through procedure prescribed by law," the court said in its decision. "The accusations against the defendants are invalid because of the breach of due process of law."
The South Korean court added the defendants have consistently stated they did not know what crimes they had committed, and that they were found guilty decades ago without sufficient evidence.
"It is difficult to say these people received due process protections by a military court over a short period of time," the court said.
The massacre, also known as the Jeju Uprising, began on April 3, 1948, when South Korean military police fired at demonstrators after Jeju residents refused to vote in a United Nations-backed election. The violence began when armed guerrillas attacked police boxes.
Jeju had exercised a greater degree of political independence than the rest of the country, following liberation on Aug. 15, 1945, with various people's committees governing themselves until April 1948.
According to the National Committee for Investigation of the Truth about the Jeju 4.3 Events, between 14,000 and 30,000 people died during a crackdown that began as early as 1947 and continued until 1954, after the end of the Korean War.
Yang Dong-yun of the National Committee for Investigation of the Jeju 4.3 Incident and Restoring the Honor of the Victims, told Yonhap on Thursday the court decision was a positive development.
Yang's activism brought national attention to massacre survivors, many of who were taken from Jeju and transferred to prisons across the South.
Victims include women, among them Kim Kyung-in, Kim Soon-hwa and Park Nae-eun, who were found not guilty on Thursday.