Bodo League massacre

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Bodo League massacre
Execution of South Korean political prisoners by the South Korean military and police at Daejeon, South Korea, over several days in July 1950.jpg
Summary execution of South Korean political prisoners by the South Korean military and police at Daejeon, South Korea
DateSummer of 1950
(71 years ago)
TargetCommunists and suspected Communist sympathizers[1]
Attack type
PerpetratorsSouth Korean anticommunists
MotiveAnti-communism; fear of North Korean collaborators

The Bodo League massacre (Korean보도연맹 학살사건; Hanja保導聯盟虐殺事件) was a massacre and war crime against communists and suspected sympathizers (many of whom were civilians who had no connection with communism or communists) that occurred in the summer of 1950 during the Korean War. Estimates of the death toll vary. Historians and experts on the Korean War estimate that the full total ranges from at least 60,000–110,000 (Kim Dong-choon) to 200,000 (Park Myung-lim).[2] The massacre was wrongly blamed on the communists.[3] The South Korean government made efforts to conceal this massacre for four decades. Survivors were forbidden by the government from revealing it, under suspicion of being communist sympathizers; whilst public revelation carried with it the threat of torture and death. During the 1990s and onwards, several corpses were excavated from mass graves, resulting in public awareness of the massacre.[4][5]

Bodo League[edit]

National Bodo League members identity card

South Korean President Syngman Rhee had about 300,000 suspected communist sympathizers or his political opponents enrolled in an official "re-education" movement known as the National Bodo League[6] (or National Rehabilitation and Guidance League, National Guard Alliance,[7] National Guidance Alliance,[8] Gukmin Bodo Yeonmaeng,[7] 국민보도연맹, 國民保導聯盟) on the pretext of protecting them from execution.[3][7][9] The Bodo League was created by Korean jurists who had collaborated with the Japanese.[10] Non-communist sympathizers and others were also forced into the Bodo League to fill enlistment quotas.[6][9]

In June 1949 the South Korean government accused independence activists of being members of the Bodo League.[7] In 1950, just before the outbreak of the Korean War, the first president of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, had about 20,000 alleged communists imprisoned.[11]


Prisoners lie on the ground before execution by South Korean troops near Daejon, South Korea, July 1950. Photo by U.S. Army Maj. Abbott.[2]
South Korean soldiers walk among bodies of South Korean political prisoners shot near Daejon, South Korea, July 1950. Photo by U.S. Army Major Abbott.[2]

Under the leadership of Kim Il-sung, the Korean People's Army attacked from the north on 25 June 1950, starting the Korean War.[12] According to Kim Mansik, who was a military police superior officer, President Syngman Rhee ordered the execution of people related to either the Bodo League or the South Korean Workers Party on 27 June 1950.[13][14] The first massacre was started one day later in Hoengseong, Gangwon-do on 28 June.[14][15] Retreating South Korean forces and anti-communist groups[16] executed the alleged communist prisoners, along with many of the Bodo League members.[3] The executions were performed without any trials or sentencing.[17] Kim Tae Sun, the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police, admitted to personally executing at least 12 "communists and suspected communists" after the outbreak of the war.[18] When Seoul was recaptured in late September 1950, an estimated 30,000 South Koreans were summarily deemed collaborators with the North Koreans and shot by ROK forces.[19] At least one US lieutenant colonel is known to have approved the executions, when he told a South Korean colonel that he could kill a large number of prisoners in Busan if the North Korean troops approached. A mass execution of 3,400 South Koreans did indeed take place near Busan that summer.[20]

United States official documents show that American officers witnessed and photographed the massacre.[17] In one case a US officer is known to have sanctioned the killing of political prisoners so that they would not fall into enemy hands.[3][21] In another, United States official documents show that John J. Muccio, then United States Ambassador to South Korea, made recommendations to South Korean President Rhee Syngman and Defense Minister Shin Sung-mo that the executions be stopped.[17] American witnesses also reported the scene of the execution of a girl who appeared to be 12 or 13 years old.[8][17] The massacre was also reported to both Washington and Gen. Douglas MacArthur,[3] who described it as an "internal matter".[19][22] According to one witness, 40 victims had their backs broken with rifle butts and were shot later. Victims in seaside villages were tied together and thrown into the sea to drown.[20] Retired South Korean Adm. Nam Sang-hui confessed that he authorized 200 victims' bodies to be thrown into the sea, saying, "There was no time for trials for them."[17]

There were also British and Australian witnesses.[3][23] Great Britain raised this issue with the U.S. at a diplomatic level, causing Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, to inform the British that U.S. commanders were doing "everything they can to curb such atrocities".[8] During the massacre, the British protected their allies and saved some citizens.[24][25]


After the UN offensive in which South Korea recovered its occupied territories, the police and militia groups executed suspected North Korean sympathizers. In October 1950, the Goyang Geumjeong Cave Massacre occurred. In December, British troops saved civilians lined up to be shot by South Korean officers and seized one execution site outside Seoul to prevent further massacres.[8][24] On 4 January 1951, the Ganghwa massacre was committed by South Korean police, who killed 139 civilians in an effort to prevent their collaboration with the North Koreans. According to a South Korean report, South Korea and the U.S. "aided right-wing civil organizations, such as the Ganghwa Self-defense Forces, by providing combat equipment and supplies."[26]:74–75

Truth and Reconciliation Commission[edit]

In 2008, trenches containing the bodies of children were discovered in Daejeon, South Korea, and other sites.[21][failed verification][2] South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented testimonies of those still alive and who took part in the executions, including former Daejeon prison guard Lee Joon-young.

Besides photographs of the execution trench sites, the National Archives in Washington D.C. released declassified photographs of U.S. soldiers at execution sites including Daejeon, confirming American military knowledge.[21][failed verification]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim 2004, p. 533.
  2. ^ a b c d e Charles J. Hanley & Hyung-Jin Kim (10 July 2010). "Korea bloodbath probe ends; US escapes much blame". Associated Press. San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "South Korea owns up to brutal past". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
  4. ^ "진실화해위 "보도연맹원 4천934명 희생 확인" : 네이버 뉴스".
  5. ^ NEWSIS. ":: 공감언론 뉴시스통신사 ::". newsis (in Korean). Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Waiting for the truth – A missed deadline contributes to a lost history". Hankyoreh. 25 June 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d "Family tragedy indicative of S. Korea's remaining war wounds – Kim Gwang-ho is waiting for the government to apologize for state crimes committed against his father and grandfather". Hankyoreh. 23 January 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d Writers Charles J. Hanley and Jae-Soon Chang (11 February 2009). "U.S. Allowed Korean Massacre In 1950". Associated Press. CBS. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  9. ^ a b Bae Ji-sook (3 February 2009). "Gov't Killed 3,400 Civilians During War". Korea Times. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  10. ^ John Tirman (2011). The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars. Oxford University Press. p. 96.
  11. ^ Kim 2004, p. 526.
  12. ^ Stokesbury, James L (1990). A Short History of the Korean War. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-688-09513-5.
  13. ^ 60년 만에 만나는 한국의 신들러들. Hankyoreh (in Korean). 25 June 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  14. ^ a b "보도연맹 학살은 이승만 특명에 의한 것" 민간인 처형 집행했던 헌병대 간부 최초증언 출처 : "보도연맹 학살은 이승만 특명에 의한 것" – 오마이뉴스. Ohmynews (in Korean). 4 July 2007. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  15. ^ 헌병대의 보도연맹원 '대량학살' 최초 구체증언 확보 6.25 당시 헌병대 과장 김만식 씨 증언 토대, 전국 조직적 학살 자행. CBS (in Korean). 4 July 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  16. ^ Kim Young Sik (17 November 2003). "The left-right confrontation in Korea – Its origin". Archived from the original on 29 March 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
  17. ^ a b c d e "New evidence of Korean war killings". BBC. 21 April 2000. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  18. ^ Kim 2004, p. 534.
  19. ^ a b John Tirman (2011). The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars. Oxford University Press. p. 98.
  20. ^ a b John Tirman (2011). The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars. Oxford University Press. p. 97.
  21. ^ a b c Charles J. Hanley and Jae-soon Chang (7 December 2008). "Children 'executed' in 1950 South Korean killings". Associated Press. Fox News. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  22. ^ Paul M. Edwards (2010). Historical Dictionary of the Korean War. Scarecrow Press Inc. p. 33.
  23. ^ "Truth commission confirms Korean War killings by soldiers and police 3,400 civilians and inmates were shot dead or drowned out of concerns they might cooperate with the People's Army". Hankyoreh. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  24. ^ a b "Unearthing proof of Korea killings". BBC. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  25. ^ Writers Charles J. Hanley and Jae-Soon Chang (11 February 2009). "AP: U.S. Allowed Korean Massacre In 1950". CBS News (AP). Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  26. ^ "Truth and Reconciliation: Activities of the Past Three Years" (PDF). Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea. Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.

Works cited[edit]

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