When I was living in San Francisco in 1981, I met and became friends with Chun Sun-Tae, a Korean immigrant who had come to the United States as a college student in the 1960s and ran a small luggage shop in Oakland. James, as he was known, had grown up in the 1940s in the city of Kaesong in what was then the northern frontier of South Korea.
One warm day in June, 1950, he went camping with a group of friends at a nearby lake. The next morning, they woke to the sounds of artillery and gunfire: Kaesong had just been overrun by the Korean People’s Army and was now under control of the communist North.
Over the next three years, Kaesong would change hands several more times, and eventually became the site for the truce talks that led to the 1953 armistice that ended the fighting. It’s now located—as the photo above illustrates—just a few miles north of the current border in North Korea.
As a result of its unfortunate location, Kaesong was attacked several times during the war by US bombers and jet aircraft, who completely controlled Korean skies and dropped huge quantities of napalm and bombs on the country. Once, James told me, an American bomb ripped through a large structure in Kaesong where townspeople had sought shelter; hundreds of people were burned to death.
He described the experience of an American bombing in Memory of Forgotten War, a 2013 film by Ramsey Liem, a professor emeritus at Boston College.
“I still hear the sound… and then big clouds. Right after that… orange fire… blood here, shrapnel passing through my cheek.”
His father sent Chun south to Seoul, where his family thought he would be safe. When the lines dividing North and South were drawn after the 1953 armistice, Kaesong remained in the North—the only major city to change hands from South to North. James never saw his father again. But years later, during the 1980s, he became one of the first Korean-Americans to visit North Korea, and was finally reunited with the surviving members of his family.
Yet Korea remains divided, and tensions between North Korea and the United States are now higher than they’ve ever been. As the conflict has deepened in recent years, the nation north of the DMZ has become a source of hatred, disdain and fear. To most Americans, North Korea is an abomination, a “slave state,” ruthlessly run by a hereditary dictator, Kim Jong Un and a handful of sycophantic generals with funny hats and grim faces.
Few journalists ever get past these stereotypes to report on the country’s past, or look into the reasons for its hostility to the United States. Ask most reporters in Washington, and the words they’ll use for the North are “crazy” and “irrational.” And as we saw with the sophomoric film The Interview (and its reminders at this year’s Academy Awards), Hollywood sees North Korea and its leader as an endless source of amusement and parody.
But last week, for the first time in my memory, a mainstream US media outlet ran an article that not only challenged this narrow view, but cut through the haze to present the reasons for North Korea’s quite valid fear and distrust of America.
“The US war crime North Korea won’t forget” was published on March 24 as a commentary in The Washington Post by Blaine Harden, a former Post reporter and the author of two books on North Korea. His first, Escape from Camp 14, told the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, one of the first people to escape from one of North Korea’s notorious prison camps (Shin, who lives in Seoul, has since changed parts of his story).
Harden is now on tour for his second book, The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, which is about North Korea’s first dictator, Kim Il Sung, and a North Korean defector who flew a MIG fighter jet south during the height of the war. Harden, in other words, is someone with no illusions about the North.
That makes his Post article even more compelling, and I hope it’s read far and wide, especially in Washington. After explaining how the North’s leaders use the Korean War as a propaganda tool against the United States, Harden argues that there is truth behind some of the regime’s claims.
The hate is not all manufactured. It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.
The story dates to the early 1950s, when the US Air Force, in response to the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, bombed and napalmed cities, towns and villages across the North. It was mostly easy pickings for the Air Force, whose B-29s faced little or no opposition on many missions.
The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off—what—20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, US bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.
Although the ferocity of the bombing was criticized as racist and unjustified elsewhere in the world, it was never a big story back home. US press coverage of the air war focused, instead, on “MiG alley,” a narrow patch of North Korea near the Chinese border. There, in the world’s first jet-powered aerial war, American fighter pilots competed against each other to shoot down five or more Soviet-made fighters and become “aces.” War reporters rarely mentioned civilian casualties from US carpet-bombing. It is perhaps the most forgotten part of a forgotten war.
He ends with a plea for reconciliation.
Since World War II, the United States has engaged in an almost unbroken chain of major and minor wars in distant and poorly understood countries. Yet for a meddlesome superpower that claims the democratic high ground, it can sometimes be shockingly incurious and self-absorbed.
In the case of the bombing of North Korea, its people never really became conscious of a major war crime committed in their name. Paying attention in a democracy is a moral obligation. It is also a way to avoid repeating immoral mistakes.
And if North Korea ever does change, if the Kim family were overthrown or were to voluntarily loosen its chokehold on information, a US apology for the bombing could help dispel 65 years of hate.
As someone who’s spent years trying to explain the animosity between North Korea and the United States to skeptical Americans, including with many articles in The Nation, these words were a revelation to me. They also caught the attention of people I know with significant experience in both North and South Korea.
“This is hugely significant,” says Christine Ahn, a Korean-American activist who is the prime mover behind a plan by Gloria Steinem and other prominent women to walk across the North-South border next month in a plea for peace on the peninsula. “In the Post, he actually writes that the US committed war crimes in Korea.”
Harden, she noted, has been a major voice exposing the evils of North Korea. “While we can’t deny the existence of labor and prison camps,” said Ahn, “he’s putting North Korea in historical context. That’s what we as activists have been trying to do all along.”
“We are walking to invite all concerned to imagine a new chapter in Korean history, marked by dialogue, understanding, and—ultimately—forgiveness,” Ahn told a news conference at the United Nations on March 10. As The New York Times reported:
The goal of the women was to punctuate their desire for a permanent peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice that halted, but technically did not end, the Korean War, a conflict that claimed an estimated four million lives, mostly Koreans, and separated millions of families.
The organizers, a broad array of international peace activists, also see their plan as a catalyst for other steps that could revive the North-South reconciliation process, which has essentially been paralyzed by hostility, suspicion and occasional eruptions of violence.
Mike Bassett, a former US Army officer who served in South Korea for most of the last decade as a tank commander and platoon sergeant, also linked Harden’s article to the need for reconciliation. “I was blown away” by the story, he told me. “This has been a subject I never expected anyone to talk about—and definitely not something as powerful as saying ‘we did commit war crimes there.’”
He compared the US attitude towards Korea, summarized in the oft-repeated phrase “the forgotten war,” to Japan’s refusal to recognize its terrible misdeeds during World War II. “The US will never admit what it did in Korea.”
Bassett’s knowledge runs deep. He was raised in Illinois by his grandfather, a Korean War veteran who was stationed with a US artillery battalion in the notorious “Iron Triangle.”
In the months after US forces crossed the 38th parallel in a disastrous attempt to occupy the North up to the Yalu River, it was a hotly contested area where United States, North Korean and Chinese forces often clashed, frequently in hand-to-hand combat. From his grandfather, Bassett learned first-hand about the human destruction caused by US bombing and shelling.
“He said his battalion decimated tons of civilians; he knew,” he said.
During his last deployment in 2008, Bassett was stationed in the most northern part of the DMZ with a reconnaissance-intelligence unit that often encountered North Korean soldiers just across the border. Until then, he had hated North Koreans with all his might. But the experience at the border began to change his perceptions.
“When I started pulling guard shifts on the DMZ, I’d be looking at them, and they were just like me—wet from the rain, cold, hungry. We made eye contact sometimes. I think we began to feel what each other was going through. I remembered what my grandfather had said—“we should have fought to the Yalu” and left Korea united.
“That experience made me want to change from shooting artillery at the North to learning how to resolve tensions. I want the regime to end, but it has to be in a humane way. Those guys [on the border] suffer just like I did.’
After leaving the military, Bassett studied at Yonsei University in South Korea and at American University in Washington, DC. He says he spent much of 2013 in North Korea, working as a consultant for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on a plan to organize a North-South Korean orchestra that would perform at the Peace Park on the DMZ. But the plan was scuttled after tensions escalated over North Korea’s objection to US-South Korean military exercises that Kim’s regime believes are practice runs for an invasion.
Facing up to the truths of the war is central to the peace process, said Bassett. “The Korean War is still the most advanced propaganda war in human history.”
Human Rights Day, December 10, 2016, we bring to the attention of our readers an important article published in 2002 on the record of US war crimes.
The issue of War Crimes emerged after World War I at the Versailles Conference, but it was not until the end of World War II that a more comprehensive definition of what constitutes war crimes was developed. First among new international conventions addressing war crimes was the 1950 Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Its fundamental premise was that the conduct of war in violation of international treaties was a crime against peace. Ill treatment ...
After all the initial eu(ro)phoria and hopes placed upon the original concept of a non-aligned, social-democratic Euro-bloc, the reality has turned out somewhat differently.
In a pamphlet written in 2011 – Europe: The Unfinished Project – I wrote:
At the present time the EU project seems to be stuck in no-man’s land, unable to press ahead with full political integration, or retreat back into a northern European protectionist Deutschmark zone, and leaving the peripheral member states to the tender mercies of unfettered, globalized capitalism. However there seems to be a sufficient residue of the original EU idealism in the present stage of ...
Book by Vladislav B. Sotirovic: Global Research. Selected articles (second edition), Vilnius: UAB “Mylida”, 2016
ISBN 978-609-408-840-7, UDK 911.3:32 So-121
The book reviews by:
Dr. João Carlos Graça, Lisbon School of Economics & Management, Lisbon University, Lisbon, Portugal
Prof. Dr. Krisztina Arató, Vice-director of the Institute of Political Sciences at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary
Dr. Christian Rossi, Department of Social Sciences and Institutions, Cagliari University, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
Join the debate on our Twitter Timeline!
Syria is being bombed as part of a “counter-terrorism campaign” allegedly against the Islamic State, an elusive “outside enemy” based in Raqqa, Northern Syria.
While the ISIL is said to be “threatening the Western World”, the evidence confirms that the Islamic State is supported and financed by the Western military alliance, together with Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Amply documented, Al Qaeda and its various affiliates including the Islamic State Caliphate Project are creations of Western intelligence.
Moreover, whatever the justification, the bombing of a sovereign country is an illegal and criminal act under international law. It constitutes a war of ...
Kosovo is Clinton Country: a 10-foot-high statue of Bill overlooks “Bill Clinton Boulevard” in the capital city of Pristina. Hillary is also memorialized in what has become the crime capital of Europe: right off the street named for her husband is a store named “Hillary,” featuring women’s clothing modeled after the putative Democratic party nominee for President. Pantsuits figure prominently. As Vice puts it: “While former President Bill Clinton has had a boulevard named after him, it’s without a doubt that his wife’s the real star out here.” Why is that?
As Gail Sheehy pointed out in her biography of Hillary, ...
Fresh calls for a Greater Albania, incorporating the southern Serbian province of Kosovo, have led to an angry backlash from politicians in Belgrade.
Sputnik Radio’s Mark Hirst talked to Marko Djuric, Director of the Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija.
Such a move by Albania, if acted upon, could plunge the entire region back into a bloody and costly war on a scale not seen since the 1990s.
Marko Djuric said that Serbia will not allow the creation of a Greater Albania in its southern province and that it is not alone in opposing the idea, which stems from the times of Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia.
When asked whether this inflammatory statement ...
What has happened in Paris last weekend is surely tragic indeed. At least 129 civilians were murdered in blatant terrorist attacks on civilian areas. The mainstream media and social media hysteria is understandable given the surprise nature of the attacks and the geographical location in which they took place: Paris, the city of love.
However, if the public truly care about the deaths of innocent lives perhaps they should direct their anger, frustration, fear and political grievances at the French government. The sympathy, fear and unity that the public feel is not only a powerful distraction from truly awful atrocities that ...
The end of the Cold War era in 1989 brought during the first coming years a kind of international optimism that the idea of the „end of history“ really can be realized as it was a belief in no reason for the geopolitical struggles between the most powerful states. The New World Order, spoken out firstly by M. Gorbachev in his address to the UN on December 7th, 1988 was originally seen as the order of equal partnership in the world politics reflecting „radically different international circumstances after the Cold War“.
Unfortunately, the Cold War era finished without the „end of ...
On March 23rd, Gallup headlined “South Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine Lead World in Suffering”, and the Ukrainian part of that can unquestionably be laid at the feet of U.S. President Barack Obama, who in February 2014 imposed upon Ukraine a very bloody coup (see it here), which he and his press misrepresented (and still misrepresent) as being (and still represent as having been) a ‘democratic revolution’, but was nothing of the sort, and actually was instead the start of the Ukrainian dictatorship and the hell that has since destroyed that country, and brought the people there into such misery, it’s now by far ...
Though intelligence documents from the 1973 coup period have been declassified since 1999, the CIA continues to censor them.
The CIA continues to withhold information on its involvement in the Sept. 11, 1973 coup that led to the death of President Salvador Allende in Chile, followed by adeadly dictatorship, according to documents posted Friday by the National Security Archive.
In the list of published documents, the section regarding Chile is censored. The President’s Daily Briefs, the intelligence reports given daily to the U.S. president, in particular former President Richard Nixon days before Allende’s death, were among those censored.
Allende during his last moments ...
As we move into the final month prior to this year’s presidential election, the tempo of dramatic world events and developments that are breaking daily is mind boggling.
Every single day we are seeing more outrageously desperate actions on the part of the globalists and their US government minions. Among the latest unfolding developments this week all fast tracking towards world war against Russia is NATO’s violation of international law deploying AWACS (Airborne Radar Warning and Control system) in Syria despite only Syria and Russia possessing the legal right to control the embattled country’s airspace.
With both US and Turkish boots ...
The mainstream media (MSM) has declared war on alternative media websites labeling them “Fake News” ever since Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump. The New York Times editorial board expressed their frustration in an article calling for the censorship of alternative and social media‘Facebook and the Digital Virus Called Fake News’ which claimed both social media platforms (Facebook and Google) has not been aggressive enough in blocking fake news sites:
Most of the fake news stories are produced by scammers looking to make a quick buck. The vast majority of them take far-right positions. But a big part of the responsibility for this scourge ...
Early in 1989, China was stirring. A decade of groundbreaking reforms inspired by Deng Xiaoping had brought the moribund economy to life and freed the nation from the ideological shackles imposed by radical Maoists during the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution. Almost everything seemed possible, as Deng proteges Hu Yaobang and then Zhao Ziyang led policymaking on a day-to-day basis.
But the changes sweeping China had its dark undersides. Large-scale economic reforms also meant expanded corruption opportunities, which many officials exploited. And Chinese who “got rich first,” under the Dengist dispensation, opened a rapidly expanding wealth gap with fellow citizens. Discontent simmered dangerously.
“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue….
Today, Christopher Columbus is celebrated as a mythical hero by some – complete with songs, poems, and fictional tales about his great adventure across the Atlantic to explore the majestic land that would eventually be known as the Americas. There are fifty four communities named after the explorer in the United States, including the District of Columbia. “Hail, Columbia” was the United States’ unofficial national anthem until 1931. A federal holiday, “Columbus Day,” is celebrated every second Monday in October.
Despite all of this, historians have begun to tear down the ...
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and President Obama — and some NATO partners) did it previously to Libya, and here was the result (as discussed by the retired British career diplomat Craig Murray, at his craigmurray.org.uk, who has kindly allowed me to distribute it to other newsmedia) [and I as editor will add a few clarifiers and questions in brackets] (and then afterward, I shall add my own comments); so, here is Craig Murray:
This is the result of NATO bombing of Sirte to “enforce the no-fly zone” in Libya.
When the neo-cons in the UK parliament and the serial warmonger Hillary Clinton call for a ...
US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan more than 16 years ago in October 2001. It’s has been a continuous war marked by US military occupation.
The justification is “counterterrorism”. Afghanistan is defined as a state sponsor of terrorism, allegedly responsible for attacking America on September 11, 2001.
The war on Afghanistan continues to be heralded as a war of retribution in response to the 9/11 attacks. US troops are still present and deployed in Afghanistan.
The legal argument used by Washington and NATO to invade and occupy Afghanistan under “the doctrine of collective security” was that the September 11 2001 attacks constituted an ...
The refusal of the United Nations to qualify the recent US airstrike against Syria as an act of aggression makes the Organization irrelevant – something Russia has been trying to prevent. It has become vulnerable to scathing criticism after demonstrating its impotence and inability to act. The continued paralysis is an eloquent example of the UN’s disengagement and lack of political will to fulfill its duty. The Organization’s image has suffered great damage. It still has a chance to rectify it by launching an investigation into what really happened in Syria.
Article One of the UN Charter states that one of the purposes is ...
What Is The European Union For?
Book By Vladislav B. Sotirovic: “Global Research. Selected articles” (Second Edition), Vilnius, 2016
The Criminalization of Parliamentary Democracy
Kosovo: Hillary Clinton’s Legacy Of Terror
Kosovo Serbs ‘Terrified’ by Proposed Creation of “Greater Albania”
Who Will Pray For The Victims Of French Colonial Aggression?
A Geopolitical Convergence Between The US And Russia
Weapons of Mass Destruction
What America’s coup in Ukraine did
CIA Continues Cover up of Involvement in Chile’s 9/11 Military Coup
Neocon Insanity and “Political Madness”: Hillary Clinton and the Dangers of Nuclear War
A Refugee Problem in Europe
The Lie Of The 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led To The U.S. Invasion Of Iraq
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
The Truth About Christopher Columbus
Hillary Clinton Wants To Do This Again — Now To Syria
The Note Donald Trump Left in Israel’s Western Wall
The 2001 War on Afghanistan is a profit driven “Resource War”
UN Response to US Attack on Syria: Noble Words, Empty Deeds