Declassified records show American inaction during South Korean mass killings

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More than 50 years after the end of the Korean War, recently released documents provide more detail on the mass murder of around 100,000 South Koreans by their own government in the war's first weeks.

According to the Associated Press, South Korean investigators have gained access to newly declassified records that show that the American military did nothing to intervene. The mass executions of between 100,000 and 300,000 leftists and others during these purges in 1950 are said to have been carried out to stop them from joining the attacking North Korean Forces.

The Associated Press says that the documents show no evidence that General Douglas MacArthur took action to halt or slow the summary executions, despite having knowledge of them.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was commissioned by South Korea in 2005 to, amongst other things, uncover the truth of what happened during those first few weeks of the war. Evidence of the executions was suppressed during the authoritarian presidency of Park Chung-hee.

"The most important thing is that [the Americans] did not stop the executions," says commission member Jung Byung-joon. "They were at the crime scene, and took pictures and wrote reports."

According to Workers World Party, Ahn Byung-ook, president of the commission, has identified 215 cases where United States forces were directly involved, out of a total of over 1,400 incidents of mass murder.

Allan R. Millet, Professor emeritus of Ohio State University and Korean War scholar, said, "I'm not sure there's enough evidence to pin culpability on these guys," referring to the American advisers that were there at the time.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has a mandate to continue work through 2010, still has tens of thousands of declassified documents to read through.

"Our plan is that, when we complete our investigation of cases involving the U.S. Army, we'll make an overall recommendation, a request to the U.S. government to conduct an overall investigation," said Ahn Byung-ook.