[KS] Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 56, Issue 21

Bruce Cumings rufus88 at uchicago.edu
Wed Mar 5 18:03:02 EST 2008

In response to J.J. Suh's inquiry, and with thanks to Adam Cathcart's  
informative posting, here is an excerpt about Sinch'on from my 1993  
book. I also spoke with Hwang Sok-yong, who told me (before Sonnim  
came out) that the major part of the Sinch'on massacres were carried  
out by Korean Christians who had fled the Sinch'on area for the  
South. In my opinion, If any Americans were present they were  
probably KMAG personnel, who witnessed many South Korean atrocities  
against civilians; the Koreans I spoke with were adamant that  
Americans had carried out the massacres, but it is also true that  
Koreans do not like to admit that Koreans could do such things,  
unless they are following American or (in the colonial period)  
Japanese orders.

Excerpt from Bruce Cumings, War and Television (Verso, 1993;  
electronic copy, not copyedited):

     We interviewed Kim Myong Ja, one of the only survivors of the  
Sinchŏn massacre, at the site of the crime. Max Whitby [Thames  
producer] thought it appropriate for me to ride down to Sinchŏn with  
her, according to his standard-operating-procedure for getting  
interviewee familiar with interviewer, and with Thames methods. I  
balked, saying the last thing this woman needed was to jounce along  
the road for several hours with an American, and I was thinking to  
myself that I didn't need it, either. But Max eyeballed me, and I  
jumped in back to meet Mrs. Kim.
     She was wearing a silk traditional dress, her hair nicely  
coiffed, and she struck me as the solid, reliable mother of four that  
she said she was, now working in the Revolutionary History Research  
Center. She had the polite, firm manner and the nurturing self- 
confidence so charming in middle-aged Korean women, and she was happy  
to answer my questions about her life and family, which I held to a  
minimum. She didn't send many in my direction, which was fine with me  
since I hoped she thought I was an Englishman.
     Mrs. Kim said she was nine years old at the time of the  
atrocity, and that her father had been an official in the local  
people's committee, imprisoned shortly after the area was occupied by  
American and South Korean forces. Her parents and most of her six  
brothers and sisters died in the war, and she attended one of the  
many schools set up for orphans, eventually graduating from  
college. . . .
     Sinchŏn is a good bit south of P'yŏngyang; the main road to  
Kaesŏng was being refurbished (probably in anticipation of the  
upcoming Olympics), so we went over to the coast at Namp'o and down  
through roads mostly made of hardpack dirt. The small cities we saw  
were not much to write home about--mostly collections of five-story  
apartment houses and state buildings in the utilitarian, functional,  
and ugly Stalinist style of the early post-Korean War period. They  
were not as homely as southern cities of the early 1970s, say, Iri or  
Chŏngju, which at that time were rundown, smelly, dour and  
depressing; but they likewise couldn't compare to the modernity of  
smaller southern cities of the late 1980s. The residents always tried  
to brighten things up, though, by keeping things clean and by daubing  
colorful paint on storefronts. The roads, whether in town or out,  
were pretty terrible. We could see on apartment walls the ubiquitous  
portraits of father and son.
     We pulled into a Sinchŏn whose small city center was getting a  
new road. There were only one or two machines, supplemented by lots  
of kids scooping the ground or carrying rocks, who looked like local  
fifth and sixth-graders….
      The site basically consists of two big tombs, like the mound- 
building Indians produced in southern Ohio only much larger, one for  
mothers and one for children, plus an empty concrete storehouse, and  
a tunnel. We observed a weathered picture of Mrs. Kim as a  
schoolgirl, round face and hair tied neatly in two pigtails. The  
storehouse and the tunnel became the charnelhouses into which some  
400 women and children were herded in November 1950, kept without  
food and water for days, while they were prevailed upon to reveal the  
location of their husbands and older sons. According to Mrs. Kim,  
when they begged for water for the children, a big American through  
buckets of shit on them. After a few days they were doused with  
gasoline and burned to death, save Kim Myong Ja and a couple of other  
kids, who found themselves at the top of the heap, near a ventilation  
hole, when it was all over.
     I did the interview with her, a thousand thoughts rushing  
through my mind as this little woman stood in the middle of the  
charnelhouse in her fine silk dress, telling her story. At the climax  
tears filled her eyes and she fixed first me and then the camera,  
vowing her thousand-fold revenge against the Americans who did this.
     It was a sickening experience, unmediated by my ability to chalk  
it up to another good propaganda routine. On the way back Mrs. Kim  
told me she had not been to Sinchŏn in years, and that the very sight  
of the town always ruined her for days. She held her face in her  
hands most of the way back to P'y"ngyang.
     We asked some of the locals at this museum who the perpetrators  
were, and they uniformly attributed it to an American officer named  
Harrison. When I asked his first name, they said “Dumaiden,” or  
something that sounded like that in Korean rendering; none of them  
spoke English and the event occurred in the vast havoc and chaos of  
successive, back-and-forth military occupation of the area by all sides.
     My research has never uncovered anything about Sinchŏn in the  
National Archives. An awful atrocity occurred one day in Sinchŏn,  
however, because we were later able to compare our visit against  
newsreel footage taken when the bodies were discovered and that could  
not have been faked. (Max painstakingly counted and measured the  
bricks [with calipers, etc.] in the charnelhouse wall to verify the  
footage.) We could verify nothing, however, about its authorship.
     Journalist Eli Schmetzer of the Chicago Tribune would disagree.  
He also visited Sinchŏn, misspelling it as Chichon, and titled his  
account “North Korean Museum Stokes Loathing of U.S.” He quoted an  
unnamed East European: “Chichon stinks. It smells of fraud.”  
Schmetzer went on to say that “each year 300,000 North Koreans are  
brainwashed at Chichon.” All this is part of the “twisted version  
of history that North Korea has dished up,” warning people that  
unless they're loyal to Kim Il Sung, “the bogeyman GIs will come  
back to rape, torture and burn everyone alive.”

I have this to say to Mr Schmetzer: it happened.

  [end of excerpt]

Bruce Cumings

On Feb 29, 2008, at 12:00 PM, koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws wrote:

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> <<------------ KoreanStudies mailing list DIGEST ------------>>
> Today's Topics:
>    1. SinchOn in North Korea (JAE-JUNG SUH)
>    2. Korea-America Student Conference (Regina Dull)
>    3. visiting lecturer in Korean literature position (kimjw at uiuc.edu)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 13:14:53 -0500
> From: "JAE-JUNG SUH" <jsuh8 at jhu.edu>
> Subject: [KS] SinchOn in North Korea
> To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Message-ID: <47C6B3CF020000DB00017996 at cis27.hosts.jhmi.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
> Dear all, I am relaying an inquiry on SinchOn in North Korea where  
> a massacre was committed during the Korean War. He has apparently  
> encountered two different accounts of the incident, NK's official  
> history and Hwang SOkyOng's novel, and asks for further  
> information. Can anyone offer help? Thank you in advance. JJ
> A year ago I was in North Korea. As a part of the official program  
> our group
> visited the Sinchon Museum, which documents war crimes. According  
> to the
> North Korean guides they were committed around the city of Sinchon  
> (South
> Hwanghae Province) during the occupation of UN forces which lasted  
> from
> October 17 to December 7 1950. The North Korans refer to 35'383  
> people, who
> were massacred by US troupes.
> Recently, I read the book "Sonnim" (The guest) by Hwang Sok-yong.  
> The book
> deals with the atrocities in the Sinchon region during the war. It  
> is a
> novel but based on eyewitness reports.
> In contradiction to the information I got in Sinchon, in the novel the
> crimes were committed by Koreans, communists and Christians.  
> According to
> the novel US troupes were not involved in the atrocities. A platoon  
> leaded
> by Lieutenant Harrison stayed two hours in Sinchon on October 17th  
> 1950 and
> handed out medicaments as well as weapons (chapter 8 of the book).  
> Until the
> retreat there where neither US nor South Korean troupes in Sinchon.
> Does your organisation have further information about Sinchon?
> J.J. Suh
> Associate Professor
> Director of Korea Studies
> SAIS-Johns Hopkins University
> 1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
> Washington, DC 20036
> U.S.A.
> 202-663-5609
> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 17:35:37 -0500
> From: "Regina Dull" <rdull at iscdc.org>
> Subject: [KS] Korea-America Student Conference
> To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Message-ID: <000001c87a5a$3ed74600$6601a8c0 at ExecDirector>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Hello!
> The application deadline for our first Korea-America Student  
> Conference is
> approaching fast, but we are still seeking motivated students  
> interested in
> Korea to apply.
> This program is NOT just for Korean-Americans and we are looking to  
> build a
> diverse American delegation representative of our entire county.   
> If you
> know a student who would make an excellent delegate, please offer  
> to write
> them a letter or recommendation and let me know you would like to  
> nominate
> them.
> KASC is a unique student-run program based on the prestigious 75- 
> year old
> Japan-America Student Conference.  Don't let your students miss this
> exciting opportunity.
> Regina Dull
> Executive Director
> rdull at iscdc.org
> 1st Korea-America Student Conference
> George Washington University, Brown University, University of  
> Tennessee, &
> University of California-Berkeley
> Join 40 other students from the US and Korea for a month of cultural
> exchange, travel and fun!
> Applications Due: March 1  -- STUDENTS who mention receiving this  
> notice on
> KoreaWeb will not be penalized for late applications if they send the
> application form & questions by March 15.
> Meet leaders and students that will improve your career network in  
> this
> unique student-led cultural and academic exchange which will host its
> inaugural program next. Students will discuss their research on  
> topics of
> bilateral and global interest and enjoy prominent speakers in the  
> month-long
> conference.
> The theme for the first Korea-America Student Conference held July  
> 5-31,
> 2008, will be "A New Look at the U.S.-Korea Alliance."
> Created due to military necessity, the U.S.-Korea alliance has  
> grown and
> evolved over the last fifty years. Today, the Republic of Korea and  
> the
> United States work as partners on issues ranging from trade  
> agreements and
> nuclear threats to education and technology. Over the next year  
> both Korea
> and the US will undergo changes in leadership which could  
> significantly
> impact their policies and interactions worldwide. As this alliance  
> continues
> to change, KASC will ensure students play an active role as they  
> prepare to
> become the next generation of leaders.
> This year's Roundtable topics include:
> Preparing Global Citizens: Education Focused on International Concerns
>> From Yongbyon to Kaesong - The Future of North Korea
> Wired for Business: Technology's Role in the US-Korea Alliance
> Shaping Regionalism in East Asia: Peace and Security
> Although many participants will be Asian Studies and East Asian  
> Studies
> majors, this is not a requirement.  All types of students from any  
> field and
> level of study are welcome at the conference.  Knowledge of the Korean
> language is not required.
> For applications or more information, please visit www.iscdc.org
> <http://www.iscdc.org/>  or e-mail kasc at iscdc.org.
> KASC is a program of International Student Conferences, Inc., a non- 
> profit
> organization dedicated to promoting peace by furthering mutual
> understanding, friendship, and trust through international student
> interchange.
> Join a group of 40 students from universities across the U.S. and  
> Korea for
> a summer of study, travel, and fun!
> Korea-America Student Conference
> Regina Dull, Executive Director
> 1150 18th St. NW, Suite LL2
> Washington, DC 20036
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> ------------------------------
> Message: 3
> Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 17:33:32 -0600 (CST)
> From: <kimjw at uiuc.edu>
> Subject: [KS] visiting lecturer in Korean literature position
> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Message-ID: <20080228173332.BCT43889 at expms1.cites.uiuc.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> Please forward this announcement to anyone who might be interested.  
> Thank you!
> Sincerely,
> Jungwon Kim
> --------------------
> The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the  
> University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign invites applications for  
> a full-time, one-year position in the field of Korean Literature  
> for the academic year 2008-2009. This position will carry the rank  
> of Visiting Lecturer and will be funded by the Korea Foundation.  
> The successful applicant
> will have a PhD in hand by the time of the appointment, will be a  
> specialist in any period of Korean Literature and will have  
> demonstrated excellence in teaching. Teaching responsibilities will  
> be two courses per semester. To apply, please send a letter, a CV,  
> 3 letters of reference, a writing sample and statement of teaching  
> philosophy to Korean Search Committee, c/o Department of East Asian  
> Languages and Cultures, 2090 Foreign Languages Building, 707 S.  
> Mathews Ave, Urbana, IL 61801.  Application materials should be  
> received by March 31. For further information contact Robert  
> Tierney at rtierney at uiuc.edu.
> End of Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 56, Issue 21
> *********************************************

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