Sunday, December 28, 2014

I must have missed that episode of M*A*S*H

Korean War atrocities uncovered

I must have missed that episode of M*A*S*H

Here's a pretty grim reminder that the Korean War wasn't all the stuff of sit-coms:

DAEJEON ---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.

The article suggests that some of the biggest failings in covering this up for so long rest with the media, which blew opportunities -- at least once quite deliberately -- to expose the atrocities while the war was still taking place. And that serves as a cautionary tale for today, and the dangers of censoring -- or again sometimes self-censoring -- all of the news, good or bad, that comes out of Iraq.

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Will Bunch
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