[KS] War Crimes in Korea / Sinchon

Cathcart Adam adamcathcart at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 4 21:44:06 EST 2008

  The death of North Korean civilians at Sinchon is significant on a few levels.  On the one hand, it calls our attention to the always fractious topic of war crimes in Korea.  On the other hand ¨C and this is particularly salient given the recently successful overture to Pyongyang by a certain North American orchestra ¨C the Sinchon massacre has underpinned a great deal of anti-U.S. propaganda in the DPRK and today remains a touchstone of the North¡¯s Korean War narrative highlighting the brutality of the United States.  
  I was able to dig up a few sources that for the most part stridently reprise the North Korean version of the events at Sinchon: 
  - Korean Central News Agency, ¡°Remains of Patriots Discovered,¡± Pyongyang, June 23, 2007.
  - Korean Central News Agency, ¡°Meetings Held to Vow Revenge,¡± Pyongyang, June 25, 2004.
  - The U.S. Imperialists Started the Korean War (Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1977), pp. 230-233.  
  - M.R. Gupta. Glimpses of Land of Morning Calm. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1990, p.117. 
  - George Katsiaficas, ¡°North Korea Holds a Peace Conference¡± Korean Quarterly, Fall 2003 vol. 7 no.1.
  It might also be worth noting as background that in the pre-war period on March 15, 1947, Kim Il Sung criticized Sinchon¡¯s ¡°anti-Party¡± elements; he had also denounced anti-regime violence in Hwanghae on Feb. 21, 1948 and August 26, 1949.  
  To contextualize things a bit, the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland of course has extensive holdings on the broader topic of war crimes in Korea and about massacres carried out by retreating Korean People¡¯s Army forces in northern cities like Hamhung.  See National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 153, Records of the Judge Advocate General, Box 891 forward.  The U.S. investigated a total of 1848 allegations of North Korean War crimes and these take up about 900 boxes in the National Archives.  I have scans of a number of these documents and photographs, and anticipate posting some on my website www.adamcathcart.com at some point in the coming months.  
  Finally, there are few more sources you may find useful as reference material:
  Tucker, Spencer, ed.  Encyclopedia of the Korean War: A Political, Social, and Military History, the following entries:
              - Wesolick, Duane L.  ¡°Atrocities,¡± Vol. 1, pp. 56-58.  
              - Esposito, Matthew D.  ¡°War Crimes Trials,¡± Vol. II, pp. 733-734. 
  Phillip D. Chinnery, Korean Atrocity! Forgotten War Crimes, 1950-1953 (Naval Institute Press, 2001).
  Ra Jong-yil, ¡°Governing North Korea: Some Afterthoughts on the Autumn of 1950,¡± Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 40, No. 5 (July 2005) 521-546, especially page 543.    
  As war crimes in Korea are an area of great interest, I would be very happy to hear from other list members regarding further suggestions for research or critiques of the North's Sinchon narrative.  

Adam Cathcart, Ph.D.  
Assistant Professor of History
Pacific Lutheran University
1010 122nd St. S
Tacoma, WA 98447
(office) 253.535.7640
(mobile) 330.860.0480
adamcathcart at yahoo.com
cathcaaj at plu.edu
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