Posted by: MadSciLabz | January 19, 2009

South Korea: Forgotten Victims of the Cold War

Very few in the West are familiar with the subject matter of the findings currently being publicized by the Investigative Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Korea. While many are aware of the massacres carried out by Stalin in the USSR few would be aware of the estimated 100,000 South Koreans massacred in the early 1950’s and hastily buried in mass graves by the right-wing US allied government of South Korea. Some of the victims were left-wing sympathizers of the North Korean communist regime, many were simply family members of such people and others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most shockingly many were small children, whose parents were allegedly communist sympathizers.

The massacres took place after the North launched its invasion on the south and were intended as a gruesome warning for any South Koreans who might collaborate with the North. It has also been revealed that the US army leadership in the region had known about the massacres and more disturbingly chose to turn a blind to at least some of them. According to research done by the commission US officers may have been present at one mass shooting. Now surviving relatives of those killed have mobilized and are demanding that the US apologizes for its role it this cruel chapter of Korean history.

Much of the information regarding the massacres comes from recently declassified US military documents. It is alleged by relatives of victims that the declassified documents include photos and information regarding photos that were taken by US military personnel of a number of assembly-line executions such as the one that took place outside the city of Daejeon, where around 5000 individuals were shot and buried in mass graves. The commission is in the process now of digging up a number of mass graves and the skeletons of infants have been exhumed.

The US for its part has largely remained silent on the topic although has defended its role in the region, noting that the massacres were solely carried out by South Koreans of their own initiative and without requesting permission from their American allies. Furthermore the US claims it had little control over Korean internal affairs. US authorities also maintain that they did urge restraint in regards to treatment of collaborators and that the killing of children and family members of suspected collaborators was largely the work of local militias not answerable to the US authorities in any way.

‘Truth is the first casualty of war and people are murdered by all sides, but we doubt we will see an apology or an admittance of guilt which would mean compensation pay-outs’ one relative of a victim commented.



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