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
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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’.
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.