The Guardian November 29, 2000

Korea: silence ends after 50 years

by Brian Denny

Shortly after western-backed forces launched the Korean war in 1950, United 
States troops herded civilians from the small village of Nogun-ri to a 
gully beneath a railway bridge and opened fire with machine guns.
ŠBy the end of the day hundreds of women, children and elderly people had 
been gunned down. Former US soldiers estimate the casualties at around 200, 
while Koreans place them at up to 400.

Washington and Seoul were originally supposed to conclude their respective 
probes by the end of June this year, but the US side has demanded an 
indefinite postponement of the deadline.

Nogun-ri has become a by-word for US atrocities in the Korean peninsula 
much as Mai-Lai came to represent the unimaginable suffering of the 
Vietnamese people at the hands of the same forces a decade later.

However, the massacre at Nogun-ri is just one of hundreds perpetrated by US 
forces across Korea which have never even been recognised.

In September 1950 US forces entered Sinchon province and after 52 days of 
occupation over 35,000 civilians, including women, children and the elderly 
had been liquidated.

By the time a truce was called to end hostilities three years later a 
quarter of the peninsula's 20 million inhabitants had been killed.

The US strategy was to totally paralyse the local population with absolute 
terror, a concept later brutally implemented in 1954 in Guatemala and in 

A former CIA operative in Guatemala later admitted that their strategy was 
borrowed directly from Nazi plans for Blitzkrieg, total war against 
civilian populations.

Washington's geo-political plan was to hold Korea as an imperialist outpost 
in order to dominate the Pacific rim just as the Nazis helped establish 
fascism in Spain before launching their campaign for empire in Europe.

Korea was Washington's Guernica. This fact was not lost on the communist 
artist Pablo Picasso, whose Massacre in Korea helped to highlight 
imperialism's crimes on the penninsula.

However, the western media obediently covered it all up, with the 
honourable exception of the Communist press.

British Communist journalist Alan Winnington reported these atrocities and 
others, such as the use of biological weaponry against Koreans, in 
Britain's, Daily Worker. For this crime he was vilified in the 
British parliament as a traitor and his citizenship was rescinded, forcing 
him to live out his life in exile.

[Australian Communist journalist Wilfred Burchett, who also exposed US 
crimes in Korea, suffered similar vilification and attempts to prevent him 
returning to his homeland.]

Washington and the US puppet government in Seoul denied all such reports 
for decades and it was too dangerous for Koreans in the south to even Šmention these crimes.

However, last June The Washington Post finally revealed that more 
than 2.5 million of the five million killed during the 1950-53 conflict 
were civilians.

Suddenly the cries of victims, relatives and witnesses of US atrocities 
were heard after 50 years of silence and fear.

Koreans have identified more than 60 other massacre sites in the south and 
more than 100 in the north where organised and systematic violence was 
carried out by US and South Korean troops or the Suh Buk Ch'ongyon-dan 
death squads under US command.

Account after harrowing account tell of women, children and the elderly 
gunned down or burned alive indiscriminately. These obscenities clearly 
show that civilians were one of the main targets of US aggression to create 
a climate of terror.

This growing body of evidence led Koreans from north and south and around 
the world to gather in Beijing last May to set up the Korean Truth 
Commission (KTC) to investigate US war crimes.

Visiting the London offices of the Morning Star (successor to the 
Daily Worker) recently, KTC Secretary General Kiyul Chung explained 
that the group's work includes investigating the period during the war as 
well as crimes committed by US occupation forces from 1945 onwards.

He produced a map with hundreds of red dots, each indicating a massacre of 
civilians, most of them hundreds of miles from any fighting during the 
Korean war.

"When we visit the sites of these crimes 50 years later, young and old 
people without limbs, bearing the scars of the attacks, greet us with 
banners saying `US Out'."

He quietly said that he was "deeply moved" to visit the Morning Star 
offices because of Winnington's work half a century ago exposing these 

"We are here to continue his work and reclaim his honour after so long", he 

This important work also includes exposing an estimated 100,000 crimes, 
including rape and murder, by some of the 40,000 US troops who occupy the 
south to this day.

However, the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs the legal 
status of US troops stationed in Korea prevents any prosecution or even an 

Mr Chung made clear that their campaign was not simply an exercise in 
revenge but to allow the truth to be told in order to bring about 
reconciliation between Koreans and even with the United States.
ŠThis noble cause has become much easier to fight for since the historical 
summit between President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in June.

But the decision by the Nobel Prize committee in Sweden to only give the 
prize to President Kim Dae-jung this year was met with disbelief across 
Korea, even by the South Korean leader himself who admitted that a joint 
prize would have been more helpful.

It spoke volumes of imperialism's thinking on the Korean question and the 
West's future plans for the peninsula.

Mr Chung pointed out that the visit by Kim Dae-jung to the north was 
illegal under Seoul's draconian National Security Laws which ban such 

The visit has made the laws — which outlaw socialist thought — 
unenforceable and Koreans in the south have even published evidence of US 
atrocities carefully collected by their northern counterparts without 

In October an opposition MP in Seoul even revealed in parliament US 
atrocities against Korean civilians — unthinkable in the past.

Kim Won-wung of the Grand National Party said: "We have discovered that 
there were at least 61 cited cases, including the massacre at Nogun-ri, 
where American personnel attacked Korean civilians."

The killings include the indiscriminate bombing of a valley in Pohang, the 
disappearance of 150 people along the coast of Tokdo islet and the 
bombardment of Iksan railway station.

Mr Chung points out that now the National Security Laws must be removed 
altogether in recognition of the new situation on the peninsula. "This is a 
necessary process to allow reconciliation.

"A part of finding the truth is finding our sense of national sovereignty 
and dignity and our stolen right to self-determination which has been 
trampled on so long by US forces", he says.

KTC chairman Oh Byeong Yun said that there will be a Korea International 
War Crimes Tribunal next June in New York and an international peace march 
as a part of this painful process of remembering and reconciliation.

As fear in the south subsides it has led to an outpouring of anger at the 
continuing US occupation of the south with nearly 40,000 troops.

Voices are growing for an end to the SOFA agreement as well as a call for 
the closure of the controversial bombing range near the village of 
Maehyang-ri that has killed 12 people and led to dozens of suicides.

Last month thousands gathered in Seoul and marched to Myongdong Cathedral 
to demand justice on all of these issues with the simple chant "Yankee Go 

Another simple slogan heard across the peninsula north and south is "Korea Šis One".

It vividly portrays the crimes and misery that US imperialism has inflicted 
on a divided but peace-loving people whose only crime was to fight for the 
right to decide their own fate.

* * *
Morning Star, Britsh socialist daily

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