PAPERS CITE S. KOREAN EXECUTIONS
DOKCHON, South Korea (AP) – South Korean soldiers and
police, observed at times by U.S. Army officers, executed more than 2,000
political prisoners without trial in the early weeks of the Korean War,
according to declassified
Supreme commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur became aware of at least one of the mass shootings, according to documents originally classified "top secret."
The new information, detailed in reporting by The Associated Press and a Korean researcher, substantiates what some historians have long believed: Large numbers of South Korean leftists arrested by the right-wing regime were secretly killed as its forces retreated before the North Korean army in mid-1950, apparently to keep them from collaborating with the communist invaders.
Subsequently, during their brief occupation of the south, the North Koreans executed many suspected rightists. Those killings, once discovered, were widely publicized in the Western press.
Information about the South Korean government’s mass executions was suppressed for decades under this country’s former military rulers. Relevant South Korean records were destroyed, researchers believe. But victims’ families recently began speaking out, and human bones have been unearthed at mass burial sites.
Witnesses describe brutal mass shootings. A retired South Korean admiral told the AP that 200 people, never put on trial, were taken offshore to be shot and dumped into the sea. Villagers in the Dokchon area remembered truckloads of civilians, trussed together, brought to the hills here and executed by South Korean military police.
The AP learned it was a
South Korean soldiers had shown "extreme
cruelty" toward the condemned prisoners at Dokchon, a
Pearce, who went to the scene after hearing gunfire, said the Korean soldiers placed 20prisoners at a time on the edge of a cliff and shot them in the back of the head. Because of poor aim, some did not die immediately.
"At about three hours after the executions were completed, some of the condemned persons were still alive and moaning. The cries could be heard coming from somewhere in the mass of bodies piled in the canyon," Pearce wrote in his one-page report.