LEGACY OF THE KOREAN WAR
North and South Korea are still technically at war. The 1953 armistice that ended the fighting was only a ceasefire not a formal end to the conflict. No formal peace treaty or surrender was signed. In the 2007, the Bush administration pursued the goal of signing a formal treaty if North Korea ended its nuclear weapons program but not much came of it.
Some of the first international peacekeepers — or equivalent of them — served in Korea. Not everybody was happy about them. In August 1955, Koreans rioted against a neutral truce body. Korean demonstrators with banners in Seoul, were particularly angry at the presence of members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission from Poland and Czechoslovakia, then Communist countries. Over 100 civilians and 44 U.S. soldiers were reported injured in riots.
The Korean War was a major milestone in the Cold War, held up as an example and warning on how the domino theory from becoming a reality. Dominic Sandbrook wrote in The Telegraph: “Korea destroyed the presidency of Harry Truman and made the career of Joe McCarthy. It was a genuinely international conflict, pitting Turks, Canadians and Australians against Chinese and Russians, and it was a milestone in the Cold War, forcing the American people to accept their new role as the policemen of the democratic world. It secured the survival of a non-Communist South Korea, and condemned the people of the North to suffer for decades under a surreal Stalinist regime whose totalitarianism endures to this day. [Source: Dominic Sandbrook, The Telegraph, August 16, 2008]
“Strangely, however, the Korean War is now almost completely forgotten. It came a decade too early to be captured on television, while the gruelling nature of the conflict, as well as its inconclusive outcome, has never lent itself to Hollywood melodrama.” MacArthur, even more than Truman, Kim or Mao, was the dominate figure of the war. “When Truman fired him for insubordination in the spring of 1951, MacArthur returned to a hero's welcome. His flamboyant blend of arrogance, racism, complacency and chauvinism won plenty of admirers on the isolationist Right; indeed, many still regard MacArthur as a folk hero.”
Today the Korean War is often called Forgotten War. Doyeun Kim wrote in The Atlantic: In the United States, the war that took more than 36,940 American lives had largely faded from memory — until a memorial was built in Washington in the 1990s. Armstrong said one of the reasons for collective amnesia is that the Korean War ended inconclusively — "and it became folded into this mystery of the Cold War." Few Americans today are aware that tens of thousands of American soldiers are still stationed in South Korea. There has been talk of ending the U.S. military presence, but recent moves from North Korea threatening the security of the region are complicating this plan.” [Source: Doyeun Kim, The Atlantic, December 14, 2012]
Impact of the Korean War on The Cold War International Relations
In her book “Brothers At War”, Sheila Miyoshi Jager contends, according to J.P. O’Malley: “Both the United States and China,...used Korea as a template for the tactics they would peruse in the ongoing battle for Indochina, particularly in the Vietnam War. As the Cold War intensified, it would also “influence domestic and foreign policies, especially with regards to the Soviet Union” in the U.S. and China[Source: J.P. O’Malley, Toronto Star, August 28, 2013]
“This gripping narrative is a superb study of how the battle fought between two nations, and the world’s three major superpowers, over the 38th parallel — on the Korean Peninsula — molded the zeitgeist for global politics in the latter half of the 20th century. The balance of power that emerged from this showdown between communism and capitalism, paradoxically, prevented the possibility of a potential Third World War.”
Also on “Brothers At War”, William Donnelly wrote: “The book’s most important contribution is its nine-chapter analysis of how the war affected international relations and domestic politics in China, the United States, and the two Koreas after the armistice. Jager looks at how the “lessons” of Korea informed decision making in the Vietnam War. The Korean conflict, she argues, “instructed Mao on the profound linkage between war and revolution” and led him to support the Vietnamese communists in large part to help further radicalize the Chinese masses, but not to the extent of sparking war with the United States. Among Americans, the Korean conflict generated “never again” sentiments that blocked French requests for support in Viet―nam. By 1964, however, opinion in the States had changed, and many saw the war as a successful limited conflict that could be replicated in Vietnam. [Source: William Donnelly, MHQ Reviews, August 20, 2013]
“Jager brings the themes of the book together in her account of why Park Chung Hee — the former communist who seized power in South Korea in a 1961 coup — dispatched the largest non-American force to support South Vietnam. Taking up another fight against communism was not an easy decision, but Park decided to align with the United States and “refight the Korean War in Vietnam,” as Jager puts it, to mobilize support for his rule and win American aid that would strengthen South Korea’s economy and autonomy. An epilogue considers whether increasing Chinese involvement in North Korea will bring an end to the conflict and how, once again, the memory of the war is used to explain and justify current policies.”
POWs from the Korean War
The primary obstacle for final settlement that ended the war in 1953 was whether prisoners of war could repatriated or not. This obstacle was only removed after Stalin died in March 1953.. At war’s end , one of the biggest problems was what to do with the tens of thousands of prisoners of war who were desperate not to return to North Korea or to China. At the end of October, 1950 in the early months of the war when U.N. forces pushed the North Korean army to the Chinese border, the U.N. forces held 135,000 North Korean prisoners of war. Only 25,000 North Korean soldiers managed to retreat across the 38th Parallel, as their military had entirely collapsed. Some ex-North Korean POWs who left the peninsula resettled in Brazil, Argentina and India.
According to the BBC: “The nature of the war resulted in many thousands of troops from both sides being taken prisoner. The Geneva Convention rules on repatriation had not envisaged a conflict like Korea, causing PoWs to become a major sticking point in securing peace. One in three Chinese prisoners claimed not to be keen to return home, forcing the U.N. to consider whether to agree to China's calls for forced repatriation. It took until 27 July 1953 to agree a compromise and for the armistice to be signed. [Source: BBC, April 20, 2001]
At the end of the war almost 100,000 prisoners of war were exchanged, but of the 10,218 American captured only 3,746 were returned. President Eisenhower was informed that at least 1,000 U.S. servicemen were still held by the North Koreans. According to one defense official, "the prisoners were sold down the river...we abandoned them." Mao reportedly told the North Koreans that “at least 20 percent” of the prisoners “should be held back” as bargaining chips for future negotiations.
MIAs from the Korean War
More than 7,600 American troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. No one knows what happened to them fate except maybe some tight-lipped the North Koreans. The MIAs are in addition to the 36,574 Americans who died in the Korean War. Except maybe in North Korea, and China, it is not known how many North Korean and Chinese MIAs there are, maybe hundreds of thousands of them.
Almost 4,600 U.S. MIAs are in North Korea, the Pentagon's Defense POW/MIA Office says. The U.S. and North Korea established the MIA search in 1996 after lengthy negotiations. Over nine years, working across North Korea, the joint teams recovered 229 sets of remains believed to be those of Americans. When then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suspended the program in 2005, officials cited what they said were concerns about the security of American personnel working on the territory of a longtime U.S. adversary. [Source: Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press, July 18, 2010]
As many as 130,000 South Koreans are missing in action according to the Defense Ministry, on top of the nearly 140,000 South Korean soldiers who were killed in combat. In 2011, a South Korean woman was offered a little over US$4 in government compensation for the death of her brother during the 1950-53 Korean War, embarrassing official said who said they were bound by an out-dated law. Reuters reported: “The woman was two years old when her brother was killed in combat in 1950, but never knew of his existence until told of his death by a neighbor, local media reported, adding the children’s mother has suffered from dementia. The family had not received any compensation until April when the soldier’s sister was awarded US$4.33 (5,000 won) under a law in effect during the war. [Source: Reuters, October 17, 2011]
“The presidential Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission has called the decision “incomprehensible” and urged the government to review it. “We hope that this case will lead to forming a system of adequately compensating the families of Korean War veterans who continue to live with deep pain,” the commission said. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and the Defense Ministry said a new law was needed to pay more or adjust the sum to incorporate inflation and interest.
American POWs and MIAs Alive After the Korean War?
Most unaccounted-for troops presumably were missing in action, but horror stories have arisen on the fate of some who didn't die in the war. A defense department analyst told the U.S. Congress in 1996 that at that time there could still be as many as 50 American prisoners of war (POW) from the Korean War still in North Korea.
According to the Pentagon POW-MIA office there have been "too many live-sighting reports" to dismiss the idea that American POWS are still being held against their will in North Korea. In the fall of 1979, a tour-bus driver taking Romanian workers on a sightseeing trip through the North Korean countryside got lost. As the bus pulled up to a collective farm, the passengers were amazed to see 10 Caucasian men in their 50s, including one with blue eyes, working in a field. A North Korean on the bus then explained that the men were American soldiers captured during the Korean War.
One North Korea defector said that he attended a military school where 11 American POWS between the ages of 55 and 60 taught English. Another defector said he repeatedly visited a secret prison camp with several elderly white and black men. The defector said the men were in prison because they were "too old to work."
Experiments on American POW Guinea Pigs
Several dozen American POWs may have been used in military drug tests in North Korea. According to a 1992 U.S. Air Force report, "During the Korean War a Soviet and Czech drug testing programs utilized American and other United Nations POW's as laboratory specimens...At the conclusion of the testing program a number of American POWs were executed. The individuals were executed to preclude the public exposure of the information." The report said the program's "primary objective was to develop methods of modifying human behavior and destroying psychological resistance."
Czech defector Jan Sejna, a former defense chief of staff, said he knew of hundreds of American prisoners who acted as "human guinea pigs" and died in Nazi-style medical experiments. Sejan said that under Soviet ordered he oversaw the construction of a secret hospital where the experiments were held. The hospital held "200" patients and sometimes handled 6000.
Sejna said some POWs were used for practicing amputations. Most died in the experiments, he said, but some were later shipped via Czechoslovakia to the Soviet Union between 1961 and 1968. Sejan said that the objective of the tests was investigate the effects of radiation, mind-control drugs and chemical and biological weapons on people of different races and background. "Because America was the main enemy," he said, "American POWS were the highly valued experimental subjects."
Chinese POWs Who Refused to Go Home
In his dissertation on the Chinese POWs of the Korean War David Cheng Chang takes us deep into the lives of Chinese soldiers who faced a new kind of civil war within the prison camps of Koje and Cheju islands. By the end of the war, around two thirds of some 21,000 POWs chose to “return” to Taiwan, dealing a propaganda coup to Chiang Kai-shek’s regime. Making use of rich interviews, memoirs, and archive sources from China, Taiwan, and the United States, the dissertation gives us the most detailed and persuasive account to date of camp life, the complexities of the screening process that determined the final fate of each POW, and the events surrounding several of the extremely violent clashes between prisoners and camp authorities in 1952. [Source: A review of To Return Home or “Return to Taiwan”: Conflicts and Survival in the “Voluntary Repatriation” of Chinese POWs in the Korean War, by David Cheng Chang, Dissertation Reviews: dissertationreviews.org]
Chapters 5 and 6 take us from the moment of surrender, defection, and capture of Chinese soldiers in the Korean War, through the early rise to power of the anti-Communist POWs, and explains the failures of Communist Party and pro-repatriation officers to organize as effectively as North Korean prisoners did in nearby compounds. Chapter 6 brings us up to the coercion and violence that preceded the April, 1952 screening of POWs that determined their view on repatriation to China and segregated the bitterly opposed sides. The chapter effectively combines an analysis of the failures to prevent coercion from playing its role within the camp, with a broader consideration of the consequences and contradictions of the humanitarian policy adopted by President Truman that came to be known as “voluntary repatriation.”
Chapters 7 and 8 offer a rich examination of two of the most violent chapters in the POW history of the Korean war: the June takeover of the Korean prison Compound 76 on Koje island, that resulted in 41 deaths (including over a dozen liquidations of “traitors”) from among its 6,800 POWs, and the October attack on the Chinese sub-Compound 7 on Cheju island that killed 56–some 11 percent of the compound’s prisoners, and also left a full quarter of them wounded. While tracing the American failures that brought about the crisis on Koje island, Chang avoids the simplistic massacre narrative found in some scholarship to offer a fascinating contrast between a problematic but highly disciplined action on Koje, with the disastrous combination of poor American leadership and a desire by Chinese POW leaders to maximize the propaganda victory purchased by their blood.
South Korean POWs in North
When the Korean War ended about 80,000 South Korean soldiers were unaccounted for. Some were presumed dead but most were thought to be POWs. The two Koreas, as part of the armistice, agreed to swap those prisoners, but the North returned only 8,300. Chico Harlan wrote in the Washington Post: “Tens of thousands of South Korean POWs were held captive in the North under the program, penned in remote areas and kept incommunicado in one of the most scarring legacies of the three-year war. South Korean officials say that about 500 of those POWs — now in their 80s and 90s — might still be alive, still waiting to return home. In part because they’re so old, South Korea says it’s a government priority, though a difficult one, to get them out. [Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, July 15, 2013]
Almost nothing was known about the lives of these prisoners until 20 years ago, when a few elderly soldiers escaped, sneaking from the northern tip of North Korea into China and making their way back to South Korea. A few dozen more followed, and they described years of forced labor in coal mines. They said they were encouraged to marry North Korean women, a means of assimilation. But under the North’s family-run police state, they were designated as members of the “hostile” social class — denied education and Workers’ Party membership, and sent to gulags for even minor slip-ups, such as talking favorably about the quality of South Korean rice.
Jon Herskovitz and Christine Kim of Reuters wrote: “Somewhere in North Korea, more than 500 South Korean prisoners of war have been held for more than half a century, all but certain to spend their final days in the secretive state without a chance of ever returning home. The 560 are all who remain alive of what Seoul estimates were about 80,000 South Korean soldiers who were left on the wrong side of a Cold War divide when a ceasefire ended the 1950-53 Korean War. [Source: Jon Herskovitz and Christine Kim, Reuters, April 5, 2010]
“To the North, they were not prisoners, but able-bodied laborers who could help rebuild its war-ravaged economy and might be convinced through re-education that they were wayward brothers better off in the communist state. Pyongyang has denied for decades it has been holding any South Korean POWs, saying the tens of thousands stayed on their own accord. It has now became nearly impossible for the North to let any POWs leave because it does not want to risk being exposed in a falsehood it has maintained for decades, analysts said. "We were discriminated against, spied on and watched. We were not allowed to move," said Yoo Chul-soo, one of the about 80 former South Korean POWs who managed to escape from the North and then was reunited with relatives in the South.
Yoo, wounded in battle, was taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers fighting for the North just weeks before the armistice accord was signed. He was transferred to a work camp north of Pyongyang and never told of the prisoner exchange that was a part of the ceasefire agreement. "We were put to work and given ideology education...The POWs who remain are still living in fear. I was 70 years old when I escaped in 2000 and I knew it was better to die trying than to die in North Korea alone," Yoo said.
“The North sent back about 9,000 South Korean prisoners, according to a South Korean government report. Those it kept were sent to work details and forced at gunpoint to sign declarations saying they intended to stay in the North. North Korea put the South Koreans to work in places such as mines and kept them under guard until about 1957. It then allowed most of them to enter society, forcing them into marriage with war orphans and widows. The new families were kept under close watch to prevent defection attempts, former POWs and the government report said.
“"My father was married in a mass wedding. The North just matched up names, and told people they were husband and wife," said Lee Yeon-soon, born of one of those couples and now chairwoman of Family Union of Korean POWs Detained in North Korea. Lee's father died in 2000 and she successfully made it to South Korea a few years later. North Korea punished her family for her defection bid by sending her mother and brother to a prison camp where they died in custody, she said.
South Korean POWs in North That Escaped
The South Korean POWs that remained in North Korea after the South Korean War had only one way to return home: escape. As of 2013, 80 had managed to do so. Chico Harlan wrote in the Washington Post: They’ve been given overdue medals and overdue apologies. They’ve testified about the POWs they know who are still in the North. They’ve shaken hands with the president. They’ve received major compensation payments — about US$10,000 per month, over five years. [Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, July 15, 2013]
“The returnees have encountered all varieties of surprise, both bitter and grand, as a half-dozen of them described in recent interviews. One escapee, Lee Won-sam, was married just before the war and reunited with his wife 55 years later. But many left families in the North only to find alienation in the South. The POWs, like others in the North, were told for decades that the South was impoverished and decrepit — and their arrival in the South revealed the extent of that deception while also dropping them into incomprehensible prosperity. A handful lost money in frauds, South Korean officials say.
“I thought South Korea had lots of beggars under the bridge and everybody lived in shacks,” said Lee Gyu-il, 80, who escaped in 2008. Many escapees say that after the war, they were initially hopeful that the South would secure their return. That hope withered in 1956, when the North assembled the prisoners and told them about Cabinet Order 143, which turned them into North Korean citizens — albeit those of the lowest rank. They were told to be thankful that they had been welcomed into a virtuous society. “Sadly, there was no real change in our daily lives,” Yoo Young-bok, who escaped in 2000, wrote in his memoir, which has been translated into English. “We went right on toiling” in the mines.
“Those who have escaped acknowledge their luck. It wasn’t easy for them to flee. Some had to travel for days through the North and then dart across a river forming the border with China — at an age when some had trouble running. Brokers helped guide them but also charged them more than the going rate for defectors, knowing that the escapees would receive large payments after settling in the South. They know a few who are still stranded in the North. Most of the former prisoners have died from mining accidents, disease, execution, famine and old age.”
Story of One South Korean POW in the North
Chico Harlan wrote in the Washington Post: In July 1953, “a 21-year-old South Korean soldier named Lee Jae-won wrote a letter to his mother. He was somewhere in the middle of the peninsula, he wrote, and bullets were coming down like “raindrops.” He said he was scared. The next letter to arrive came days later from the South Korean military. It described a firefight in Paju, near the modern-day border between the North and South, and said Lee had been killed there in battle. His body had not been recovered. “We never doubted his death,” said Lee’s younger brother, Lee Jae-seong. “It was the chaos of war, and you couldn’t expect to recover a body.” [Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, July 15, 2013]
“But Lee was not dead. Rather, he had been captured by Chinese communists and handed to the North Koreans, who held him as a lifetime prisoner, part of a secretive program that continues after the end of the Korean War, according to South Korean officials and escapees from the North.” Lee died of liver cancer in 1994 at the age of 63. “After being captured by the Chinese and handed to the North, he had worked for four decades in a mine at the northernmost point of the peninsula, near the Russian border. He’d married a woman with one eye — a fellow member of the hostile class — and had four children, all of whom were ridiculed by teachers and classmates for their family background.
“But only as Lee’s health deteriorated in his final months did he tell his children, for the first time, the details of his earlier life. He gave one son, Lee Ju-won, the names of family members in the South, as well as an address: the home in which he was raised. “So after I buried him, I decided to go there,” Lee Ju-won said. It took him 15 years to defect. Two days after Lee Ju-won was given his South Korean citizenship, he traveled to his family’s hometown, Boeun. His relatives still owned the original property, though the home had been demolished and rebuilt.
During that visit, Lee Ju-won learned that his family had celebrated his father’s birthday every year and always set aside a rice ball for him at the New Year’s feast. He also discovered his father’s letter from Paju, written weeks before the armistice, which a relative had saved. Lee Ju-won learned that his father, before the war, had been rebellious and talkative — characteristics he stifled in the North, though he passed them on to his son. “It turns out my dad was a lot like me, though he didn’t show it,” Lee Ju-won said.
Brainwashed Korean War POWs
Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker: “Fear of Communist brainwashing seems an example of Cold War hysteria, but in the nineteen-fifties the fear was not without basis. United Nations ground forces began military action in Korea on July 5, 1950. On July 9th, an American soldier who had been captured just two days earlier delivered a radio speech consisting of North Korean propaganda. Similar broadcasts by captured soldiers continued throughout the war. At the end of the war, the Army estimated that one out of every seven American prisoners of war had collaborated with the enemy. (The final, generally accepted estimate is one out of ten.) Twenty-one Americans refused to return to the United States; forty announced that they had become Communists; and fourteen were court-martialled, and eleven of those were convicted. [Source: Louis Menand, The New Yorker , September 15, 2003]
“The term “brainwashing” was coined by a journalist named Edward Hunter, who had served in the Morale Operations section of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War, which he spent mostly in Asia, and who became an outspoken anti-Communist. Hunter’s book “Brainwashing in Red China: The Calculated Destruction of Men’s Minds” appeared in 1951. In it, he explained that “brainwashing” was his translation of the Chinese term hsi-nao, which means “cleansing of the mind,” and which he said he had heard frequently when speaking with Europeans who had been caught inside China in 1949, the year of Mao’s revolution.
“In 1955, two years after the armistice ending the Korean War, the Army issued a huge report on the treatment of American prisoners called “POW: The Fight Continues After the Battle.” The Army had interviewed all surviving prisoners of war on the ships that brought them back across the Pacific — more than four thousand soldiers — and had learned that many of them underwent intensive indoctrination by Chinese Communists. The Chinese had carefully segregated the prisoners they had identified as incorrigibles, sometimes housing them in separate camps, and had subjected the prisoners they judged to be potential converts to five hours of indoctrination a day, in classes that combined propaganda by the instructors with “confessions” by the prisoners. In some cases, physical torture accompanied the indoctrination, but in general the Chinese used the traditional methods of psychological coercion: repetition and humiliation. The Army discovered that a shocking number of prisoners had, to one degree or another, succumbed. Some were persuaded to accuse the United States, in signed statements, of engaging in germ warfare — a charge that was untrue but was widely believed in many countries.
“The Army report instigated a popular obsession with brainwashing that lasted well into 1957. Stories about the experiences of American prisoners appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Life, the Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. The term itself became a synonym for any sort of effective persuasion, and writers struggled with the question of whether aspects of contemporary American life, such as advertising and psychiatric therapy, might really be forms of brainwashing. Condon must have read much of this material; he did know Andrew Salter’s “Conditioned Reflex Therapy” (1949), a book he has the Chinese psychiatrist in his novel, Yen Lo, cite in the speech in which he announces his successful brainwashing of the American prisoners. Yen Lo names a number of other studies of hypnosis and conditioning, including “The Seduction of the Innocent,” by Frederic Wertham, an alarmist account of the way comic books corrupt the minds of American youth. (Yen Lo evidently has, in addition to his other exceptional powers, a crystal ball, since “Seduction of the Innocent” was not published until 1954, after the Korean War was over.) These books and articles apparently persuaded Condon that brainwashing, or psychological conditioning using a combination of hypnosis and Pavlovian methods, was a real possibility — as the recent experience of the Korean P.O.W.s had persuaded many other Americans that it was.
Brainwashed Korean War POWs and the Manchurian Candidate
Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker: “Most people know John Frankenheimer’s movie “The Manchurian Candidate,” which stars Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and Angela Lansbury in the story of an American soldier who is captured in Korea and programmed by Chinese Communists to kill on command. And most people probably think of the movie as a classic of Cold War culture, like “On the Beach” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” — a popular work articulating the anxieties of an era. In fact, “The Manchurian Candidate” was a flop. It was released in the fall of 1962, failed to recover its costs, and was pulled from distribution two years later, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It turned up a few times on television, but it was not shown in a movie theatre again until 1987, which — nearly the end of the Cold War — is the year its popularity dates from. The true artifact of Cold War culture is the novel, by Richard Condon, that the movie was based on. [Source: Louis Menand, The New Yorker , September 15, 2003]
“Condon’s book came out in 1959 and was a best-seller. It was praised in the Times (“a wild, vigorous, curiously readable melange”) and The New Yorker (“a wild and exhilarating satire”); Time named it one of the Ten Best Bad Novels — which, from a publisher’s point of view, is far from the worst thing that might be said about a book. The novel’s success made Condon rich.
“Condon’s book played on the fear that brainwashing could be permanent, that minds could be altered forever. By the time Frankenheimer’s movie came out, though, it had become clear that most conditioning is temporary. In 1961, in “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of ‘Brainwashing’ in China,” the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who had conducted some of the shipboard interviews with returning P.O.W.s, concluded that the indoctrination of prisoners was a long-term failure. All of the “converts” eventually returned to the United States, and the former prisoners who had come home praising the good life to be had in North Korea soon reverted to American views.
“Still, conditioning is the theme (if “theme” is not too grand a term) of Condon’s novel. Even before Raymond falls into the hands of Yen Lo, he is psychologically conditioned, by his mother’s behavior, to despise everyone. His mother is conditioned, by her early incest, to betray everyone. And the American people are conditioned, by political propaganda, to believe her McCarthy-like husband’s baseless charges about Communists in the government. It is not, in Condon’s vision, the Communist world on one side and the free world on the other. It is just the manipulators and the manipulated, the conditioners and the conditioned, the publicists and the public. In such a world, it’s probably better to be the publicist, if you can deal with the ulcers.
“Frank Sinatra, who plays Marco, the only friend Raymond has, is supposed to have asked his friend Jack Kennedy for his approval before Frankenheimer’s movie was released. United Artists was apparently afraid that the assassination scene might give some nut an idea. Kennedy, as it happened, loved the movie; he was, after all, the world’s most famous Ian Fleming fan. He was killed a year after “The Manchurian Candidate” came out. Did Lee Harvey Oswald see it? The problem has been examined in depth by John Loken, in a book called “Oswald’s Trigger Films” (2000). Loken concludes that although the evidence is not definitive, Oswald almost certainly did see it. “The Manchurian Candidate” opened in Dallas in November, 1962, and played there for several months; Oswald, who was living in Dallas at the time, had a habit of going to the movies by himself (he was in a movie theatre when he was arrested on November 22, 1963); and Loken has determined that the bus Oswald probably took to work passed within ten yards of a theatre where the movie was playing. (Loken is much struck by the fact that references to “The Manchurian Candidate” are almost nonexistent in the literature, official and otherwise, on the Kennedy assassination. He concludes, in the spirit of all scholars of that assassination, that “the probable Oswald connection, so utterly obvious if one but thinks about it, has been suppressed for decades by a powerful conglomerate that might aptly be called the ‘media-entertainment complex.’ “) Immediately after Kennedy was shot, Condon got a call from a newspaper reporter asking if he felt responsible.”
Families Divided by the Korean War
About a quarter of all South Koreans still have relatives in North Korea. One man who fled South in 1950 and had not seen his relatives in almost half a century told Newsweek in 1996, "We thought the war wouldn't last long — only a few months — and then we'd see each other again...My only wish is to see my brother before I die."
The Korean War produced millions of refugees. "I'll never forget the evacuation of Seoul," Kim wrote, "and the flight southward — roads clogged with vehicles, families separated in the confusion, children crying and women screaming; the hunger, the exhaustion, the terror. We were lucky. We made it together, my father and mother, six sisters and I to the southern port of Pusan, jammed in the back of a truck with several other families."
Edward Daily, a soldier just off the ship from Japan in the early weeks of the war told Associated Press:“Thousands of refugees were fleeing south. With so many refugees mixing with GIs, trucks and equipment, the roads became jammed and impassable. Being surrounded by so many Koreans made us a little jumpy. Reports had filtered down that North Korea regulars were masquerading as civilians, donning the traditional white clothing worn by peasants. It was impossible to tell friend from foe.”
By one estimate 10 million families were broken up by the Korean War. One North Korean man who became divided from his family and ended up in South Korea because he attended his school graduation told the New York Times: “My mother had to go to church that day and couldn’t attend the ceremony, an my father was working for the railroad and couldn’t come. So I told my parents goodby, intending to return after the ceremony.” He eventually became a prisoner of war and didn’t see his family again until 50 years later.
A South Korean woman told the Independent, she lost track of her son who had gone to check out what had been going on in the battle zone, “He went out that day without telling me. I was out at the time, and he said to his brother, ‘I’m going to take a look at school. Tell Mum.’ If I’d been there, I’d have told him not to go. He was 16 years old.”
A woman said her mother was arrested by North Korean Communists because she was a capitalist. “My uncle, who was in the army, moved into our house and refused to give us any food, even though we begged him to just give us a little something for my baby brothers.” Realizing that they would probably die, their older sisters moved them to the south.
Eliot A. Cohen wrote in the Washington Post: “one may follow the moral tide of an conflict by following the streams of refugees, When the communists took over in the North, two million fled south. And as the battles seesawed back and forth over the peninsula in 1950, hundreds of thousands if not millions more fled the advancing communist forces by heading toward South Korean and American lines. At war’s end , one of the biggest problems was what to do with the tens of thousands of prisoners of war who were desperate not to return to North Korea or to China.”
“Finding Dispersed Families”: the Longest Live TV Broadcast
The KBS Special Live Broadcast “Finding Dispersed Families” is the longest live broadcast in the world. It aired non-stop for 435 hours. The stories of over 50,000 separated families were aired and the moving scene of reunions among 10,000 war-dispersed families was recorded in real time. The Archives of the KBS Special Live Broadcast “Finding Dispersed Families” was designated a UNESCO Memory of World Register in 2015. [Source: Korea Tourism Organization visitkorea.or.kr ]
UNESCO listed the archives of live broadcast as a valuable heritage for the reminder of the painful memories of war and families torn apart as a result. It paid great contribution in easing the tension in the Korean Peninsula during the international Cold War era. The scenes of family reunions received world recognition for making a compelling argument for peace and reunification of the torn country.
The Archives of the KBS Special Live Broadcast “Finding Dispersed Families” comprises 20,522 records of live broadcasts by the Korean Broadcasting System of reunions of war-dispersed families for 138 days, from June 30 through November 14, 1983. The collection holds 463 original copies of videotapes, producers’ journals, the applications written by the families, broadcast ephemera, audiotapes, daily broadcast schedules, cue sheets and photographs.
Celebrating the Anniversary of the End of the Korean War in North Korea
On a celebration marking the anniversary of the end of the Korean War in Pyongyang, Kelly Olsen of Associated Press: “Tens of thousands of North Koreans rallied in their capital to condemn the United States and South Korea on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. One large poster at the rally in Pyongyang depicted a man kicking an American soldier and the slogan "U.S. Army, Get Out." Another sign said, "Kick Them Out With a Single Punch," according to footage shot by broadcaster APTN. [Source: Kelly Olsen, Associated Press, June 25, 2010]
At Pyongyang rally, North Korean soldiers and civilians crammed the city's central square to shout slogans and listen to a speech condemning the U.S., the APTN footage showed. At least 120,000 people marched through the streets, "raising shouts for hatred and wrath at the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean group of traitors kowtowing to them," according to the official Korean Central News Agency. "In order to establish our people's dignity and our country's autonomy, our people and army will continue to strengthen nuclear deterrence for self defense," Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea's Workers' Party, told the gathering.
“The North, which calls the conflict the Fatherland Liberation War, says it was started by the United States. On Thursday, KCNA carried a massive 4,300-word article listing damage the North says the country suffered at U.S. hands since 1945. KCNA cited the "Committee for Investigation into Damage Done by the U.S. to the Northern Half of Korea" as finding the total monetary cost for North Korean suffering came to a staggering US$65 trillion. That amount is five times the U.S. national debt of about US$13 trillion.
Korean War and Anti-Americanism in North Korea
Anna Fifield wrote in the Washington Post: Any day of the week, the North Korean propaganda machine can be relied upon to spew out anti-American vitriol using some formulation of “imperialist” and “aggressor” and “hostile.” The Kim family has kept a tight grip on North Korea for some seven decades by perpetuating the idea that the Americans are out to get them. From the earliest age, North Korean children are taught “cunning American wolves” — illustrated by fair-haired, pale-skinned men with huge “North Koreans live in a war mentality, and this anti-American propaganda is war-time propaganda,” said Tatiana Gabroussenko, an expert in North Korean propaganda who teaches at Korea University in Seoul. [Source: Anna Fifield, Washington Post, May 17, 2017]
“The thing is: there is some element of truth to the North Korean version of events. It’s only a kernel, and it is grossly exaggerated, but North Koreans remember very well what most Americans have forgotten (or never knew): that the Korean War was a brutal one. “Korea is called the forgotten war, and part of what has been forgotten is the utter ruin and devastation that we rained down on the North Korean people,” said John Delury, a professor in the international relations department at Yonsei University in Seoul. “But this has been ingrained into the North Korean psyche.”
The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs in Korea, not counting the 32,557 tons of napalm, Bruce Cumings, a University of Chicago professor who’s written several books on North Korea, wrote in “The Korean War: A History.” This compared with 503,000 tons in the entire Pacific theater in World War II. “If we keep on tearing the place apart, we can make it a most unpopular affair for the North Koreans,” Defense Secretary Robert Lovett said after the napalm and aerial bombing campaigns of 1950 and 1951, according to Cumings. “We ought to go right ahead,” Lovett said.
“Dean Rusk said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops. Air Force commanders complained that they’d run out of targets. “The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating U.N. forces,” Armstrong of Columbia wrote.
“The Kim regime keeps its people afraid by constantly blaming the United States for its situation, especially sanctions for its economic plight. But this also helps it unify the populace against a supposed external threat. “Anti-Americanism is an ideological tool of the government,” said Peter Ward, a North Korea researcher affiliated with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. “They need an enemy and a villain to blame for the division of the country, a scapegoat for the situation they are in.” From the very real events of the Korean War, North Korea’s propagandists have created a version of history that is designed to keep the shock and horror alive more than six decades later.
“North Korea’s discourse on the Korean War — which it calls the “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War” — was constructed along the lines of Soviet propaganda against Nazi Germany during and after World War II. “North Korea’s propaganda writers were educated in the Soviet Union,” which portrayed its defense against the German invasion as “The Great Patriotic War,” said Gabroussenko, who grew up in the U.S.S.R. “So, according to the North Korean version of the Korean War, they were also fighting a great patriotic war against American intruders.”
“Take the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities south of Pyongyang, one of many museums in North Korea designed to keep the regime’s narrative alive. It recalls what North Korea says was a massacre carried out by U.S. troops. There was fighting and death in Sinchon during the Korean War, but North Korea is widely held to have vastly exaggerated them with its claim that 35,000 “martyrs” were killed by U.S. soldiers during a massacre there. This is one of what Ward calls the “fake atrocities” that North Korea has created to bolster anti-American nationalism.
Kim Jong un has visited it several times since he became leader at the end of 2011. During a visit after a major expansion of the museum in July 2015, turning it into “a center for anti-U.S. class education,” Kim celebrated “the victory day when the Korean people defeated the U.S. imperialists.” “No matter how crafty the U.S. imperialists become in their moves to cover up their crimes, they can never erase the traces of massacre of Koreans left in this land,” Kim said, according to a state media report.He also ordered his cadres to “intensify the anti-imperialist and anti-U.S. education.” The Korean Central News Agency reported in March, that “more than 18,000 service personnel, working people and youths and students visited the museum” in the first 10 days of the month, “their hearts burning with the resolution to punish the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean warmongers.”
Forgotten War in South Korea
Younger South Koreans are having trouble remembering the dates of the Korean war. According to a survey by the Chosun Ilbo in June 2007, four in ten South Koreans between the haes of 20 and 49 could not name the correct year when the fighting started. However, compared to past surveys, more blamed North Korea for starting the war and few said it was triggered by outside forces. [Source: Reuters]
Doyeun Kim wrote in The Atlantic: “From what observers are able to collect from North Korean state media, the Cold War rhetoric is still very much alive in the North, loaded with invectives directed at the United States and constant referrals to the U.S.-friendly South Korean government as a "puppet government."...But south of the 38th parallel, most of these issues have been relegated to history books and faded from collective memory. [Source: Doyeun Kim, The Atlantic, December 14, 2012]
“About a mere 35 miles from the border, the South Korean capital, Seoul, bustles with the footsteps of over 10 million people and the wheels of 3 million vehicles on their way to business. Buildings pop up fast, tall and eager, in a steely show of indifference to the North Korean artillery pointed directly at the city.
“The crippling violence of the Korean War has long been forgotten. Some sources say there were as many as 2 million civilian deaths, but the chaos was such that there is no real, accurate way of knowing, according to Charles Armstrong. There is, however, more certainty about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in the war. The two incidents in 2010 — the sinking of the warship Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea — brought unusual violence to the surface and reminded us that fighting could resume at any time. Yet the tension seems to have dissipated for many in South Korea.
“Ahead of the December 19th presidential elections, public opinion polls from media outlets, including Gallup Korea surveys, show that North-South relations, and North Korea as an issue in general, lag far behind concerns about the economy, jobs and education. And as South Korean news channels reported the North's recent rocket launch, anchors assured viewers that the stock market was in stable condition. "The way that North Korea is presented [in the western media] makes it difficult for Americans, who know very little about Korea, to understand why people living in South Korea aren't terrified every day of their lives about the threat from North Korea," Armstrong told me. "The reality is that people are focused on their life ... It's a very practical, day-to-day kind of reality."
“Like many young South Koreans, university student Park Sung Woo doubts there's much he can do to change the current situation in Korea, and he gives it little thought. Asked about his service in the ROKA between 2009 and 2011, Park simply replied, "I just needed to get [my military service] over with."
Many South Koreans Want MacArthur Statue Torn Down
In 2005, Newsweek reported: In 1950, “U.S. Gen. Douglas Mac-Arthur led 70,000 United Nations troops ashore at Inchon on the Korean Peninsula. They attacked North Korean troops, who had penetrated 300 kilometers south, from behind and within two weeks had forced them to retreat. To commemorate the turning point of the war, grateful South Koreans erected a statue of MacArthur in Inchon. But most of those visiting the monument these days do not come to honor the American commander. Instead hundreds of protesters have gathered recently to demand that the statue — celebrating a man they see as a warmonger determined to fight communism at the expense of Korean blood — be torn down. "MacArthur started and perpetuated Korea's division," says Han In Sup, a civic activist leading the campaign to remove the statue. "He came here to serve U.S. interests, not to save Koreans." [Source: Newsweek, September 4, 2005]
“History is the new battleground in South Korea. A generation of young Koreans, raised under democracy, have grown increasingly skeptical of the national myths developed during the decades of postwar authoritarianism. Anger over Japan's colonial-era oppression has become more pronounced, as has resentment of the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea — and Washington's ham-handed foreign policy more generally. Erstwhile enemy North Korea, on the other hand, is increasingly seen less as a rogue state bristling with weapons than as a cultural brother, standing tall against much more powerful enemies.
“A new debate over the Korean War, the most tragic episode in modern Korean history, encapsulates the trend. A growing number of young Koreans see dictator Kim Il Sung as the victim of a cold-war confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, not a madman who launched an unprovoked invasion of the South. Books and movies no longer portray the conflict as a clear-cut battle between good and evil; rather, the moral dilemmas of brother fighting brother are emphasized. And just as the war's villain is being reappraised, so is its hero: to many, MacArthur is now merely a symbol of the unchecked arrogance of the U.S. military. "The revisionists are still a minority view in Korean society," says Lee Jeong Hoon, a political scientist at Yonsei University in Seoul. "But they are increasingly vocal."
“The shift has been years in the making. More than two decades ago, in his book "The Origins of the Korean War," U.S. professor Bruce Cumings blamed both Washington and Moscow for the outbreak of hostilities, arguing that Kim was induced into the war. While supporting such views could invite a jail sentence during military rule, current President Roh Moo Hyun has made a particular effort to encourage new interpretations of Korean history. Officials of the ruling Uri Party have criticized the United States for elevating Koreans who collaborated with the Japanese to positions of power after the war, and have blasted those officials for suppressing independence fighters. The North, on the other hand, is praised for starting afresh. "Although there was a little element of civil war," says Kim Dong Choon, a political scientist at Seoul's Sungkonghoe University known for his liberal views, "the Korean War was basically forced by superpowers."
“Such critics emphasize the tragedy of Koreans fighting Koreans, and criticize U.S. troops led by MacArthur for killing innocent civilians on both sides. (Last year's blockbuster movie "Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo," in which Southern atrocities during the war are described as vividly as the North's, attracted a record 12 million viewers.) They also shiver at the general's unsuccessful plan to nuke North Korea, which they believe would have sparked World War III. "MacArthur was going to sacrifice numerous Korean lives just to drive out communism," says political scientist Kim.
“An older generation of Koreans finds such cynicism unacceptable, and has staged counterprotests to save the MacArthur statue. Even Roh has called for the monument to remain. But the larger shift in mind-set will continue to bedevil relations between Washington and Seoul. While American negotiators are pushing in nuclear talks for isolating the North, South Korea is offering energy and other inducements. In a newspaper survey taken this August, 66 percent of those aged between 16 and 25 said they would now side with Pyongyang if a war broke out between North Korea and the United States. The new civil war may be between allies, not enemies.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.
Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2021