South Korean massacre investigated after 58 years

Pablo Picasso, Massacre in Korea

From the New York Times in the USA:

Korea Investigates Atrocities in Race Against Time


Published: September 3, 2009

KWANGAMRI, South Korea — On a heavily forested hilltop behind this village, investigators are excavating the long-buried history of the South Korean men, women and children who cowered in a trench as their own country’s troops mowed them down during the Korean War.

It is a race against time. The investigators, from the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, are tapping into the memories of a dwindling number of survivors as they pursue their mission of examining some of modern Korea’s most traumatic moments. They also face the possibility that their mandate, which expires next year, could be ended or drastically curtailed under the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak.

What they are finding as they dig up the remains at Kwangamri, 175 miles south of Seoul, is physical evidence that backs up once-suppressed stories of atrocities during the 1950-53 war.

In February 1951, the hills around this village were teeming with refugees caught up in the fighting between South Korean government forces and Communist guerrillas who aided the invading troops from the North. Some villagers had collaborated with the guerrillas. Others said they were forced, at gunpoint, to accompany guerrillas who feared that the villagers would otherwise tell the South Korean Army where they were. Still others were simply fleeing the advancing troops.

By Feb. 20, the outnumbered guerrillas had retreated from the village, and South Korean soldiers had taken their place. What followed, survivors say, was wholesale carnage, as government soldiers assembled civilians and shot them as they begged for mercy.

“We were all families — old people, parents and children,” Moon Man-seop, 76, said in an interview. “When the soldiers ordered us to jump into the trench, my instincts told me to crawl to the bottom. An old man on top of me was trembling and weeping.”

Shot three times, but playing dead for two days amid the dead and dying, Mr. Moon said he was one of only two people who emerged alive after the troops left.

The military’s combat report for that day recorded “1,005 enemy personnel” killed versus 3 soldiers. But survivors maintain that most of those who died here were unarmed civilians, including hundreds who survived the initial attack but were rounded up on this hillside and summarily executed on suspicion of being Communist sympathizers.

Fifty-eight years later, investigators have so far unearthed the remains of 108 people from the trench, a quarter of them women and children. Many were found with their hands tied behind their backs or necks, as Mr. Moon described in testimony before the truth commission. One was a child clutching marbles.

Many of the estimated 220,000 migrant workers in South Korea are beaten, trafficked for sexual exploitation and denied their wages for long periods despite the introduction of rules to protect their rights, Amnesty has revealed: here.

Korea: Formed after the Armistice Agreement in 1953, the thin ribbon of land between the two countries that are still technically at war is one of the most heavily armed areas in the world, but it has also become an accidental paradise for wildlife: here.

8 thoughts on “South Korean massacre investigated after 58 years

  1. Man defects to North Koreans

    North Korea: Pyongyang’s state media reported yesterday that a South Korean citizen has defected to the North by crossing the fortified border dividing the two Koreas.

    Kang Tong Rim crossed over on Monday and was in the country’s “warm care,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

    KCNA reported that Mr Kang had tried many times in vain to defect while in the South Korean army.


  2. Seoul claims that defector is on run
    South Korea Officials have claimed that the agricultural labourer who is believed to have defected to the North by cutting through barbed wire at the heavily fortified border is a fugitive from justice.Jinan police official Kim In Ki asserted that Kang Dong Rim was wanted on assault charges for allegedly striking his employer at a pig farm with a hammer last month.


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