Little Bits of History

February 9

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 9, 2017

1951: The Geochang massacre begins. Geochang is a county in South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. It covers about 310 square miles and has a population today of just over 67,000. Geochang is in the northern portion of the province which is in the southeastern region of the country. The third battalion of the 9th regiment of the 11th Division of the South Korean Army targeted Communist sympathizer unarmed civilians. They killed 719 people with 385 of them children. This was immediately after they had targeted another 705 unarmed civilians in Sancheong and Hamyang, also located in South Geyeongsang Province.

General Choe Deok-sin was in command of the 11th Division. He was a 1936 graduate of the Republic of China Military Academy and had served as a Republic of China Army officer and after World War II he was promoted to colonel. He then returned to South Korea and entered their Army Academy as a second lieutenant. In 1949, he came to the US and entered the United States Army Academy and then returned to Korea on July 14, 1950. He served as head of the 11th Division under the United States IX Corps during the Korean War and during this time the massacres took place. After the War and a military coup, he served as Foreign Minister and Ambassador to West Germany between 1961 and 1963. In 1986, Choe and his wife defected to North Korea as he had been known for his opposition to South Korean policies.

In March 1951, Shin Chung-mok, a lawmaker serving in the assembly from Geochang reported the massacre to the National Assembly against South Korean Army cover up. While an investigation was attempted, the South Korean Army interfered at every turn and in fact, had Shin arrested and sentenced to death in an Army court martial. A second investigation was initiated in May 1951 and the team from the National Assembly was better able to look into the allegations Shin had made. This second investigation determined the malfeasance and the South Korean Army’s involvement. It was found that Major Han and Colonel Oh Ik-gyun were guilty of massacre of hundreds of civilians and both men were sentenced to life in prison. President Syngman Rhee eventually granted clemency to criminals and let them free. This is often cited as just one indication of his oppressive rule.

In April 2004, a Geochang Massacre Memorial Park was founded in order to give voice to the men, women, and children killed over these two days. In February 2006 the files of the massacre were reported found by the National Archives and Records Service. In 2001, a local court ordered the South Korean government to pay reparations to the victims’ families but in 2004, a general court ruled that a statute of limitation had passed and the government would not pay. This was confirmed by the South Korean Supreme Court in 2008. In 2010, a researcher for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found the National Defense Ministry’s official documents condoning the annihilation of citizens living in the guerrilla influenced area.

Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance. – all from Sun Tzu

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