First of all, I appreciate all the e-mails I have been receiving from everyone sending me the latest Charles Hanley article. It is at the point now that I can tell a Hanley article must have been published just by the uptick in reader e-mail in my inbox. So thanks again.
It seems like every few months Associated Press writer Charles Hanley comes up with some article to milk his prior No Gun Ri fame, which he undeservedly won a Pulitzer Prize for in 2001. In May 2006 he wrote an article about the “discovery” of the Muccio Letter then a year later in April 2007 he wrote a nearly identical article. In May 2008 he had another article out that was co-authored by Jae-soon Chang, which ROK Drop readers may remember I have called out before for his poor and sensational journalism as well. This was followed up with yet another article a few months later nearly identical in content.
Anyway I found this latest article to be more typical Hanley writing with his typical use of theatrical words like “declassified” or formerly “secret” documents to make the reader believe he discovered something new in regards to the executions of political prisoners, suspected communists, & civilians in Korea:
Government investigators digging into the grim hidden history of mass political executions in South Korea have confirmed that dozens of children were among many thousands shot by their own government early in the Korean War.
The investigative Truth and Reconciliation Commission has thus far verified more than two dozen mass killings of leftists and supposed sympathizers, among at least 100,000 people estimated to have been hastily shot and dumped into makeshift trenches, abandoned mines or the sea after invaded the south in June 1950.
The killings, details of which were buried in classified U.S. files for a half-century, were intended to keep southern leftists from aiding the invaders at a time when the rightist, U.S.-allied government was in danger of being overrun by communist forces. [Associated Press]
As I pointed out in my prior posting on this topic in response to his last article, the subject of political killings by the Rhee Syngman government is nothing new and well known. Hanley is simply playing his old game of making old news, new again. It has been well known for years that the ROK Army was responsible for executing thousands of political prisoners before and during the war. Of course the truth isn’t as simple as the South Korean government lining up and killing hapless political prisoners. In fact before the Korean War even started, South Korea was faced with a North Korean backed communist insurgency. The South Korean government led by autocratic President Syngman Rhee allowed the ROK military to brutally suppress the insurgency, which led to a number of communist guerrillas and civilians being killed. With the intermingling of guerrillas and civilians it is impossible to determine the real number of each that were killed.
To show how absurd Hanley’s claims of uncovering these exuections is I have a DVD of the execution of suspected communists and I didn’t even need to sift through declassified or formerly secret documents to find it like Hanley claims he had to do.
Something that I found particularly distasteful is that Hanley has to sensationalize the deaths of children in order to drum up interest in his article with a lead headline of “Children Executed in 1950 South Korean Killings”. If this isn’t professional atrocity mongering then I don’t know what is?
Later on in the article he sources his claims of the killing of children back to the Korean Truth & Reconcilliation Committee. As I have demonstrated before the Truth & Reconcilliation Committee is staffed with leftist scholars who have no interest in developing an accurate history of what happened during the Korean War. Notice in the article no mention is made on how many children were killed. Could this be because the forensic evidence they have found shows few children killed? This doesn’t stop the usual suspects from claiming the “US Sanctioned the Executions of Korean Children“.
Hanley also throws in this statistic from the Daejon Massacre:
The AP has reported that declassified U.S. military documents show U.S. Army officers took photos of the assembly line-style executions outside the central city of Daejeon, where the commission believes between 3,000 and 7,000 people were shot and dumped into mass graves in early July 1950.
First of all I would like to see the forensic evidence to prove up to 7,000 people were executed by the ROK military in Daejon. I say this because Hanley has a history of making up body count numbers that the forensic evidence does not support. I also find it interesting that Hanley makes no mention of the North Korean massacre of both civilian and POWs in Taejon:
After capturing Taejon in the summer of 1950, the North Korean Home Affairs Department jammed the city prison with suspected anti-Communists—soldiers, officials, business and professional men. Beginning Sept. 23, 1950, several groups, numbering from 100 to 200 each, were taken from the cells each night. The prisoners, hands tied behind their backs, were herded into line beside open trenches and shot. As U.N. forces threatened the city, the Communists resorted to more expedient methods, dumped bodies into makeshift trenches. Others were sealed into caves or jammed down wells (see NEWS IN PICTURES). Estimated casualties: from 5,000 to 7,500, including 42 U.S. soldiers. Said the Army’s report: “For murderous barbarism, the Taejon massacre will be recorded in the annals of history along with the rape of Nanking, the Warsaw ghetto and other similar mass exterminations . . . Those responsible . . . must be brought to judgment before the tribunal of civilized peoples.” [TIME Magazine - 1953]
Also any bodies the Truth & Reconcilliation Committee find in Taejon that they claimed were killed by the ROK military because of the type of bullet used, remember that the North Koreans used American M1 rifles to execute their prisoners with:
On September 27, 1950, approximately 60 American prisoners who had been confined in Taejon prison were taken into the prison yard in groups of 14, with their hands wired together. These men were forced to sit hunched in hastily dug ditches and then were shot by North Korean troops at point blank range, with American M-1 rifles, using armor-piercing ammunition. Of the 2 seriously wounded survivors, only 1 lived to recount the gruesome details. Unnumbered civilians estimated at between 5,000 and 7,000, as well as soldiers of the Republic of Korea, were also slaughtered at Taejon between September 23 and September 27, 1950 [FN11 - Pt. 1, pp. 15-25]. [Korean War Educator]
So once again, I want Hanley and company to prove their claim that up to 7,000 civilians were executed by the ROK military in Taejon. The facts are there is no way they can prove their claim and yet are throwing that number around as if it is an accurate number, which it is not.
Here is quite possibly the most dishonest paragraph in this entire hit piece:
Other once-secret files show that a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel reported giving approval to the killing of 3,500 political prisoners by a South Korean army unit he was advising in Busan, if the North Koreans approached that southern port city, formerly spelled Pusan.
Hanley makes it seem like this lieutenant colonel ordered 3,500 people to be executed. In fact no one was executed which Hanley conveniently left out. The lieutenant colonel in question is LTC Rollins Emmerich who in fact delayed a ROK Army commander from executing his prisoners:
Emmerich was told by a subordinate that a South Korean regimental commander, determined to keep Busan’s political prisoners from joining the enemy, planned “to execute some 3500 suspected peace time Communists, locked up in the local prison,” according to the declassified 78-page narrative, first uncovered by the newspaper Busan Ilbo at the U.S. National Archives.
Emmerich wrote that he summoned the Korean, Col. Kim Chong-won, and told him the enemy would not reach Busan in a few days as Kim feared, and that “atrocities could not be condoned.”
But the American then indicated conditional acceptance of the plan.
“Colonel Kim promised not to execute the prisoners until the situation became more critical,” wrote Emmerich, who died in 1986. “Colonel Kim was told that if the enemy did arrive to the outskirts of (Busan) he would be permitted to open the gates of the prison and shoot the prisoners with machine guns.”
How do we not know that LTC Emmerich wasn’t using a stall tactic to stop the executions? If so it worked brilliantly since the prisoners in Busan were not executed. Emmerich should be getting a medal and not be slimed as some kind of war criminal by the likes of Charles Hanley. It is a shame that the US does not have stronger defamation laws for Emmerich’s family to go after Hanley with because I’m sure they have to be outraged by Hanley’s sensationalist journalism.
Interestingly enough this week Hanley’s main source for his articles the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Committee were implicated along with the Korean NIS and MBC for trying to pressure one of the most prominent North Korean defectors Kim Hyun-hee to change her story in regards to the North Korean involvement in the KAL 858 bombing that killed 115 people for political reasons. Kim even said that the T&R Committee reminded her of show trials in North Korea:
Nor did the truth commissions formed by the Roh administration leave Kim alone. The NIS’ in-house panel attempted to question Kim in 2005, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a similar attempt in 2007, only to be rebuffed. Kim says subjecting a case already tried three times by the judiciary to a fourth and fifth trial by these commissions reminded her of the show trials in North Korea.
The secret service conducted an in-depth investigation of Kim in the wake of the 1987 bombing and subsequently protected and monitored her, but in a bid to please the Roh administration, it acted as though it had no idea what was what. That is the shameful legacy of the fad for digging up past wrongs that swept the nation under the Roh administration.
We should urgently find out whether Kim is telling the truth. Is it true that the NIS, which has a massive state budget, and the truth commissions that sprang up like so many mushrooms on the soft bed of taxpayers’ money, leaned heavily on this poor woman to please the government? Whatever the truth of the matter, the three networks that stirred up this whole sorry business must admit the truth and apologize. [Chosun Ilbo]
Hanley has a record of sourcing articles from North Korean and communist sources and now he is sourcing articles from a committee that reminds people of being operated like a North Korean show trial. This is the quality of AP journalism now adays.
So why is Hanley now releasing a string of nearly similar articles all sourced by the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Committee? Well it is because the Lee Myung-bak government is trying to do away with the committee:
The plan for merging and abolishing past history truth commissions, professed by the Lee Myung-bak administration since the time of Lee’s presidential transition committee, is showing signs of being realized. Bills for the amendment of 15 related laws, submitted to the National Assembly on November 20 by the Grand National Party’s Shin Ji-ho and 13 other Assembly members, form a framework for combining the functions of the 14 history truth commissions currently operating into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea. [Hankyoreh]
This committee is hoping that another No Gun Ri type of issue could ensure the continued existence of the committee and are using Hanley to try and realize this goal. Unfortunately for them Hanley has been so discredited over the years few big media outlets take him seriously anymore.
Bottom line is that the ROK military authorities and Syngman Rhee found themselves in desperate circumstances and implemented desperate measures to include executing an undetermined number of innocent civilians intermingled with actual communist guerrillas who were themselves responsible for the killing of their own unknown number of civilians.
The US government treated this as an internal ROK issue in the early weeks of the war but eventually worked towards getting the Rhee government to stop the retribution killings of suspected communists:
The problem of dealing with Koreans charged with collaboration with the North Korean Communists during the occupation of South Korea is being closely studied here at the temporary capital as preparations get under way for the return to Seoul as soon as that city will be liberated. [New York Times - 1950]
Another interesting fact that Hanley some how does not bother to mention.
I have said this before and I will say it again. The issue of civilians killed during the Korean War is a very real one that unfortunately people with biases are using to advance their own agendas that are aided by sensational media reports from people like Charles Hanley.
The Truth & Reconciliation Committee in theory is a very good idea that I support, but it is the people that are leading it that is the problem. The T&R should be a committee dedicated to creating an accurate history of the war. I have already demonstrated this current group of people are not interested in doing so.
Since the Korean War was a UN action maybe a joint UN research team from countries heavily involved in the Korean War could investigate the claims? This would be better then the Charles Hanley’s of the world being left to write a revisionist history of the Korean War.
Bottom line though is that veterans and civilians deserve an accurate accounting of what happened during the war which Charles Hanley, Jae Soon-jang, and the T&R Committee are currently not interested in doing which is just another continuing tragedy of the war.