Truth Commission reveals history of Korean War
U.S.-South Korea carried out massacres of civilians
Published Jun 29, 2008 9:11 PM
As told by most history textbooks in the U.S., the Korean War started with a
June 25, 1950, invasion from the communist north and the freedom-loving U.S.
came to the aid of the besieged democratic Republic of Korea in the south. The
reality was very different.
Not only did the RoK’s dictatorial, fascist-like regime of U.S. puppet
Syngman Rhee make the first move, it had prepared for it for more than a year
in advance. These preparations included using paramilitary fascist
organizations and the regular army for cross-border raids on northern villages
to test the defenses of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Domestically, the preparation meant carrying out large-scale executions of
suspected communists, leftists and anyone who opposed the neo-colonial rule of
the U.S. in the south. The majority of these massacres took place throughout
the summer of 1950, but thousands of civilians were executed by RoK military
and police throughout the war.
The U.S. military—which had operational command of the RoK army—not
only was aware of the massacres, but assisted and even directed many of the
That these massacres had occurred was common knowledge among people both north
and south. Due to the repressive anti-communist National Security Law, which
threatened penalties of decades in prison, no one in the south dared to speak
up until recently.
A half century of official silence finally began to end after the hard struggle
of the pro-democracy movement in the 1980s created a political space. Even
those who fled to the U.S. to escape the repression couldn’t speak up.
They were dependent on established Korean-Americans for jobs, housing and
loans, and these privileged elements often had ties to the right-wing Grand
National Party or the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
One voice through the decades spoke the truth to the world about the mass
murders. The press in the DPRK constantly tried to bring these crimes to the
attention of the world. Because Washington’s racist anti-DPRK propaganda
was all-pervasive, the truth never gained any traction in the corporate mass
media around the world.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Today in the RoK, a government-funded Truth and Reconciliation Commission
headed by Ahn Byung-ook is investigating 1,200 incidents of mass executions in
addition to 215 cases in which the U.S. military was directly involved in the
executions. Of the more than 150 mass graves unearthed so far, the commission
has the physical evidence, documentation and eyewitnesses to officially confirm
two mass executions at Ulsan and Cheongwon.
The RoK government now acknowledges that its military, national police and
fascist paramilitaries killed over 100,000 civilians at that time, when
Korea’s population was 20 million. Kim Dong-choon of the TRC called these
government estimates of the human cost of this bloody anti-communist paroxysm
The numbers may be as high as 200,000 people, with some sources putting it as
high as 300,000. These numbers do not even include the extra-judicial
executions during the war of those RoK puppet troops deemed to be sympathetic
to the liberation forces from the DPRK.
Rightist ideologues, both in Seoul and Washington, point to alleged massacres
carried out by the Korean People’s Army, while denying that the actual
proven murders perpetrated by the southern puppet forces even took place. In
reality, according to a CIA study dated July 19, 1950, cited by Korea scholar
Bruce Cumings, during the occupation of the south by the KPA “North
Korean officials ran a tight ship but without a lot of bloodshed.”
In another CIA report from 1950, a “large percentage” of trade
unionists and union leaders joined the KPA only 10 days into the war. DPRK
President Kim Il Sung had given a radio address calling on people in the RoK to
organize themselves. People’s Committees were formed and went about
seizing Japanese and RoK government property as well as that of the rich.
KPA units in the south distributed rice to the people and emptied the jails of
political prisoners, who then turned on the cops and the fascist youth groups.
KPA troops, in alliance with the poor peasantry, carried out democratic land
reform as they swept southwards. Even in the chaos of war, the KPA maintained
its discipline. Cumings says that “captured North Korean documents
continued to show that high-level officials warned against executing
The same cannot be said of the RoK puppet forces. Before the war even began,
the RoK government created the National Guidance League, a fascist-inspired
“re-education” corps for people the Rhee dictatorship claimed were
communists. By 1950, more than 300,000 people were forced to join the
Kim Dong-choon says the police or the military executed many of the
League’s forced inductees. National Police under Korean Military Advisory
Group supervision executed 7,000 people in Yangwol (near Taejon) from July 2-6,
U.S. oversaw exterminations
Alan Winnington of the British Daily Worker in an article entitled “U.S.
Belsen in Korea” reported that 20 witnesses observed that truckloads of
cops arrived on July 2 and immediately made people dig six pits of about 200
yards each. Executions went on for three days, by both machinegun and, when the
bullets ran out, decapitation by sword. According to eyewitnesses, U.S.
officers oversaw everything while sitting in their Jeeps. The U.S. Embassy in
London then had the chutzpah to call Winnington’s findings a
The U.S. military, through its operational command over the RoK army, was
involved at the highest level in the executions. New York Times correspondent
Charles Grutzner talked about “the slaughter of hundreds of South Korean
civilians, women as well as men, by some U.S. troops and police of the
Keyes Beech, in a July 23, 1950, Newark Star-Ledger article wrote: “It is
not the time to be a Korean, for the Yankees are shooting them all.”
Donald Nichols, a former Air Force intelligence officer, wrote in his 1981
memoir of witnessing an “unforgettable massacre” of
“approximately 1,800” at Suwon during the war.
In addition, an investigation made by RoK lawmaker Park Chan-hyun in 1960
during the (relatively) democratic interlude of Chang Myon’s Second
Republic revealed that an estimated 10,000 people were executed in Busan.
RoK dictatorship was shaky
What these horrible, inhuman atrocities reveal is that the puppet RoK
dictatorship knew its power rested upon a profoundly shaky foundation. As
another quite frank CIA report cited by Cumings noted, the rightist RoK
leadership “is provided by that numerically small class which virtually
monopolizes the native wealth and education of the country.... Since this class
could not have acquired and maintained its favored position under Japanese rule
without a certain minimum of ‘collaboration,’ it has experienced
difficulty in finding acceptable candidates for political office and has been
forced to support imported expatriate politicians such as Rhee Syngman and Kim
Koo. These, while they have no pro-Japanese taint, are essentially demagogues
bent on autocratic rule.”
Rhee’s venal clique knew that his planned drive north depended upon
drowning the patriotic and communist elements in the south in blood. Pockets of
communist guerrillas who had fought the Japanese occupation were still active
in the south as late as 1950.
According to KMAG commander Gen. W.L. Roberts, the RoK puppet army killed 6,000
communist guerrillas from November 1949 to March 1950. Of the attacks on
northern border villages carried out by the army and the fascist Northwest
Youth paramilitaries that took pace in 1949, Gen. Roberts said that “each
was in our opinion brought on by the presence of a small South Korean salient
north of the (38th) parallel.... The South Koreans wish to invade
Despite the staggering scale of the mass murders carried out by the Rhee puppet
regime, patriotic feeling still ran so deep among the Korean people that even
in the RoK National Assembly, 48 members declared their allegiance to the DPRK
at the end of July 1950.
The issue of the mass execution of civilians still divides those who are
subservient to U.S. neo-colonialism and those who want an independent Korea.
Former RoK president Roh Moo-hyun apologized in an official capacity for the
870 confirmed murders at Ulsan, calling them “illegal acts.” In
stark contrast, current president Lee Myung-bak, already deeply unpopular, has
threatened to cut funding for the TRC.
Seven years ago, the U.S. government finally admitted part of its own guilt,
that its soldiers had killed hundreds of innocent civilians in the South Korean
township of Nogun-ri shortly after the start of the Korean War in 1950.
President Bill Clinton himself expressed “deep regret” in a public
statement on Jan. 11, 2001.
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