Jeju, Santa Rosa's sister city in South Korea, is located on an island sometimes praised as an Asian Hawaii.
But there also exists on the isle of Jeju an unhealed sorrow and a vein of resentment toward America. That enmity runs counter to the friendship that brought Santa Rosa a vibrant trans-Pacific exchange program, and also the stone sculptures across Sonoma Avenue from City Hall and at Jeju Way on Fourth Street.
A groundbreaking art exhibit that opens Feb. 7 at the Sonoma County Museum will provide people on this side of the sistership an opportunity to consider a massacre that struck Jeju 65 years ago. And about why some on the island are dubious of friendship with the United States.
The exhibit is, "Camellia Has Fallen: Contemporary Korean Artists Reflect on the Jeju Uprising." It's the first American showing of art that speaks to the 1948 mass killings of Jeju citizens by a U.S.-supervised South Korean government bent on suppressing a left-wing rebellion at any cost.
"This is their Holocaust," said Mario Uribe, the Santa Rosa artist who founded the ArtStart public art program and who frequently visits Jeju. He's confident "there was some U.S. involvement" in the massacre.
Uribe learned that for decades it was forbidden for anyone in South Korea to even speak of the rampage that killed tens of thousands on Jeju. The silence ended in 2006, when then-President Roh Moo-hyun apologized to Jeju residents for the slaughter of innocents.
Even today, few people anywhere are aware of what befell Jeju in 1948. The sister-city bond makes the Sonoma County Museum ideal for the art exhibit's first international visit.
If you go to see it, expect some conversation about a current clash that also has some Jeju residents criticizing America. The South Korean Navy is building a huge naval base that is supported by some on the island and is condemned by others as a provocative attempt by the U.S. to gain strategic advantage over China.
As with many sister relationships, our kinship with Jeju is complex.
THANKS TO HEALDSBURG: A package arrived at Mary St. Clair's place from the Army's 4th Infantry
Division headquarters in Afghanistan.
Inside was a thank-you gift from the 500 or so soldiers who just prior to Christmas received the huge shipment of care packages that were filled last Dec. 4 at a school gym in Healdsburg. St. Clair and a small army of volunteers packed them with hand-knit caps, Alexander Valley granola and other exceptional things.
As thanks, Lt. Col. Brad Wambeke and his grateful troops sent the community an American flag that they'd flown over the base in the Kandahar region on Christmas Day.
An accompanying letter says the flag was "flown in the face of the enemy and bears witness to the strength of the American people in rebuilding Afghanistan and denying a safe harbor for terrorism."
St. Clair, the hairdresser and mother of an Iraq war veteran who can't make herself forget the young troops who remain in discomfort and peril in Afghanistan, will share the flag with local veterans groups and government agencies interested in flying it.
Already, she plots the gift-packing party for Christmas 2014.
CASH FOR COWS: Generosity has flowed like rich Sonoma-Marin milk since reporter Robert Digitale wrote about the quest by sixth-generation rancher Marissa Thornton to crowdsource $35,000 to buy 20 Jerseys and once again make a dairy of her family's largely idle spread near Tomales.