Mass murder of South Korean peasants admitted at last

Picasso, Massacre in Korea

This painting is Massacre in Korea, by Pablo Picasso.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Thousands killed in 1950 by US’s Korean ally


Published: May 19, 2008

DAEJEON, South Korea — Grave by mass grave, South Korea is unearthing the skeletons and buried truths of a cold-blooded slaughter from early in the Korean War, when this nation’s U.S.-backed regime killed untold thousands of leftists and hapless peasants in a summer of terror in 1950.

With U.S. military officers sometimes present, and as North Korean invaders pushed down the peninsula, the southern army and police emptied South Korean prisons, lined up detainees and shot them in the head, dumping the bodies into hastily dug trenches. Others were thrown into abandoned mines or into the sea. Women and children were among those killed. Many victims never faced charges or trial.

The mass executions — intended to keep possible southern leftists from reinforcing the northerners — were carried out over mere weeks and were largely hidden from history for a half-century. They were ”the most tragic and brutal chapter of the Korean War,” said historian Kim Dong-choon, a member of a 2-year-old government commission investigating the killings.

Hundreds of sets of remains have been uncovered so far, but researchers say they are only a tiny fraction of the deaths. The commission estimates at least 100,000 people were executed, in a South Korean population of 20 million.

That estimate is based on projections from local surveys and is ”very conservative,” said Kim. The true toll may be twice that or more, he told The Associated Press.

In addition, thousands of South Koreans who allegedly collaborated with the communist occupation were slain by southern forces later in 1950, and the invaders staged their own executions of rightists.

Through the postwar decades of South Korean right-wing dictatorships, victims’ fearful families kept silent about that blood-soaked summer. American military reports of the South Korean slaughter were stamped ”secret” and filed away in Washington. Communist accounts were dismissed as lies.

Only since the 1990s, and South Korea’s democratization, has the truth begun to seep out.

In 2002, a typhoon’s fury uncovered one mass grave. Another was found by a television news team that broke into a sealed mine. Further corroboration comes from a trickle of declassified U.S. military documents, including U.S. Army photographs of a mass killing outside this central South Korean city.

Now Kim’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has added government authority to the work of scattered researchers, family members and journalists trying to peel away the long-running cover-up. The commissioners have the help of a handful of remorseful old men.

”Even now, I feel guilty that I pulled the trigger,” said Lee Joon-young, 83, one of the executioners in a secluded valley near Daejeon in early July 1950.

The retired prison guard told the AP he knew that many of those shot and buried en masse were ordinary convicts or illiterate peasants wrongly ensnared in roundups of supposed communist sympathizers. They didn’t deserve to die, he said. They ”knew nothing about communism.”

The 17 investigators of the commission’s subcommittee on ”mass civilian sacrifice,” led by Kim, have been dealing with petitions from more than 7,000 South Koreans, involving some 1,200 alleged incidents — not just mass planned executions, but also 215 cases in which the U.S. military is accused of the indiscriminate killing of South Korean civilians in 1950-51, usually in air attacks.

The commission last year excavated sites at four of an estimated 150 mass graves around the country, recovering remains of more than 400 people. Working deliberately, matching documents to eyewitness and survivor testimony, it has officially confirmed two large-scale executions — at a warehouse in the central South Korean county of Cheongwon, and at Ulsan on the southeast coast.

Good work by this Korean commission. However, happening only now, when most surviving witnesses of the massacres have already died.

It reminds me of some long overdue news from the USA. Like: Communist party membership no longer a fireable offence in California. And, US government finally takes Nelson Mandela off ‘terrorist list’.

South Korea today: here. And here. And here.

RIOT police fired water cannon and tear gas on a mass march against President Park Geun Hye’s conservative government through Seoul yesterday, arresting scores of people. Trade unions, farmers’ associations and other groups had rallied 70,000 people to demand Ms Park’s resignation and an end to redundancies: here.

10 thoughts on “Mass murder of South Korean peasants admitted at last

  1. A List of Most Peaceful Nations in the World

    Iceland ranks as number one, with the U.S. coming in 97th.
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    (Reuters) – Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation while the United States is ranked among the bottom third, according to a study released on Tuesday.

    The “Global Peace Index,” compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked the United States 97th out of 140 countries according to how peaceful they were domestically and how they interacted with the outside world.

    The United States slipped from 96th last year, but was still ahead of foe Iran which ranked 105th. It, however, lagged Belarus, Cuba, South Korea, Chile, Libya and others which were listed as more peaceful.

    Iraq, which the United States invaded in 2003, leading to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, ranked lowest on the index. Afghanistan, another country invaded by the United States this decade, was also in the bottom five, along with Sudan, Somalia and Israel.


  2. RIP journalist John Powell- Exposed America’s use of biological weapons

    Posted by: “Richard Frager”

    Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:30 am (PST)

    John Powell, 89, U.S. journalist once tried for sedition
    By Margalit Fox
    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    John W. Powell, an American journalist who in 1959 was tried for sedition in a rare and highly public case after he asserted in print that the United States had used biological weapons in the Korean War, died Monday in San Francisco. He was 89 and had lived in San Francisco for many years. The cause was complications of pneumonia, his son John S. Powell said. Powell’s case was one of the rare federal prosecutions for sedition – inciting resistance to the government – in the decades since World War I. Though the government eventually dropped all charges against him, his case dragged on for five years and became a cause célèbre.

    The case against Powell centered on articles he wrote during the war, in the early 1950s, in The China Monthly Review, the English-language magazine he published and edited in Shanghai. In the articles, Powell reported claims by the Chinese government that the U.S. military had used germ weapons against Chinese troops in North Korea. The U.S. government charged that Powell had violated wartime sedition laws by printing false statements. It also charged that his articles were used to undermine the loyalty of U.S. troops in North Korean prisoner-of-war camps, who were forced by their Communist guards to read them. In April 1956, a federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Powell on 13 counts of sedition. Powell’s wife, Sylvia, and an associate, Julian Schuman, both editors at The China Monthly Review, were indicted on one count each. Each count carried a penalty of 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

    John William Powell, known as Bill, had family roots in Shanghai. His father, John Benjamin Powell, had helped found The China Weekly Review, as it was then known, in 1917. In the late 1930s, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the elder Powell was an outspoken supporter of China amid the Japanese occupation there. In December 1941, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, John Benjamin Powell was thrown into a Japanese prison camp. He lost both feet to gangrene there; he died in 1947 at 60. Bill Powell was born in Shanghai on July 3, 1919, and spent his boyhood with relatives in Hannibal, Missouri. He studied journalism at the University of Missouri and in World War II worked in China for the U.S. Office of War Information.

    After the war, Powell took over his father’s magazine. When the Chinese Communists came to power in 1949, he publicly supported their cause, which did little to endear him to U.S. officials a decade later. In 1950, citing financial difficulties, Powell turned the magazine into a monthly. In 1953, it ceased publication, and Powell returned with his family to the United States. Unable to get work as a journalist, Powell made his living buying, restoring and selling Victorian houses in San Francisco and later ran an antiques business.

    Schuman, who returned to China, died there several years ago. Sylvia Powell died in 2004. Powell returned to journalism, and to national attention, in the 1980s with two articles about Japanese biological experiments in World War II. The articles, published in The Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1980 and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1981, reported on the special Japanese Army unit known as Unit 731, which during the war carried out large-scale germ-warfare experiments in China, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

    The existence of Unit 731 was first reported in the Western news media in the late 1940s. Powell’s articles, which drew wide notice, further asserted that the U.S. government had agreed not to bring war-crimes charges against Japan in exchange for medical data from Unit 731’s experiments. And it was from these data, Powell’s articles suggested, that the United States learned the germ-warfare skills it would one day use in North Korea.

    Even today, historians do not agree on whether the United States actually used biological weapons in North Korea, as Powell contended more than half a century ago. “There’s no consensus,” Stephen Endicott, a retired professor of history at York University in Toronto, said Tuesday. Endicott is the author, with Edward Hagerman, of “The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets From the Early Cold War and Korea.” Endicott added: “Nobody has come forward to say, on the American side, ‘Yes, we did it,’ or on the Chinese side, ‘Yes, we lied about it.’ It remains one of the controversial issues of the Cold War.”


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