S. Korea confirms mass political killings in 1950s
December 7, 2008
Government investigators digging into the grim hidden history of mass political executions in
The investigative Truth and Reconciliation Commission has thus far verified more than two dozen mass killings of leftists and supposed sympathizers, among at least 100,000 people estimated to have been hastily shot and dumped into makeshift trenches, abandoned mines or the sea after Communist North Korea invaded the south in June 1950.
The killings, details of which were buried in classified
Family survivors last month met with the
Declassified records show that U.S. officers were present at one killing field and that at least one U.S. officer sanctioned another mass political execution of prisoners who would otherwise have been freed by the North Koreans. Uncounted hundreds were subsequently killed, witnesses reported.
With thousands of citizens' petitions in hand, the 3-year-old truth commission has been taking testimony from witnesses and family survivors, poring over police and military files, both here and in the United States, and excavating mass grave sites.
Before suspending operations for the winter, crews had exhumed the remains of 965 victims from 10 mass graves, out of at least 168 probable sites across
Some mass killings were carried out before the war; many came in the first weeks after the invasion on June 25, 1950, and others occurred later in 1950 when
The executioners at times cold-bloodedly killed families of suspected leftists, the commission has found.
In late 1950 and early 1951, in Namyangju, 16 miles northeast of
Survivor Kim Jong-chol, 71, said his father, a South Korean border guard, had been forced to work for the conquering northerners, and then was executed by the southerners as a collaborator. More than a dozen relatives were also killed, including Kim's grandparents and 7-year-old sister, he said.
"Young children or whatever were all killed en masse," Kim said in an interview. "What did the family members do wrong? Why did they kill the family members?"
The 15-member panel, whose unprecedented inquiry will stretch into 2010, has thus far verified that children were among the victims in at least six mass killings. In a seventh case, it found, it was southern leftists who killed children of supposed South Korean rightists.
Similarly, the North Korean occupiers and their southern comrades at times killed policemen and others associated with the rightist regime after summary "trials." But the commission says petitions relating to executions of leftists outnumber by 6-to-1 those dealing with right-wingers' deaths.
Other once-secret files show that a
Although at the time
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs