Headline July 22, 2019/ THE '' 'BROTHERHOOD OF' '' WAR



DR. PARK SUN-joo and team has recovered the remains of 400 people in the six killing sites since 2014 - including 208 executed -

208 executed in an abandoned gold mine in Asan, about 50 miles south of Seoul, in what the truth commission called a ''crime against humanity''.

Of those found in the mine, 58 were 12 years old or younger. Of the rest, more than 80 percent were women.

Recovery of remains opens a chapter some wish would stay closed. But ''One way of healing the wounds that still divide that society is to recover the remains and return them to their families.''

Dr. Park, a Seoul native was a history major and an aspiring journalist Yonset University in Seoul when he fell in love with archaeology while interning in a museum.

But he had little inkling that he would become involved with Korean War remains when he returned home in 1989 with a doctorate in human osteology from the University of California at Berkeley and began teaching at Chungbuk National University.

AND THEN, IN 2000, THE defense Ministry asked Mr. Park to help recover fallen soldiers in Korean War battle sites. A Colonel told Mr. Park that he was the only osteologist he could find in South Korea.

While excavating the young soldiers, Mr. Park felt the tragedy the war brought home. A soldier whose remains his team uncovered inspired the movie : ''Taegukgi : Brotherhood of War,'' a boxoffice hit in South Korea. 

Around this time, another tragedy of the war was brought to Mr. Park for excavation.

Under the liberal government of President Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea established its Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2005 to investigate civilian massacres during the war.

The commission eventually confirmed widespread extrajudicial, mass executions of unarmed civilians across South Korea by its own police and military, as well as by right-wing villagers.

When it started excavating the killing sites in 2007, Mr. Park was asked to lead the efforts.

Mr. Park's team quickly uncovered the long-suppressed horror : skeletal remains stacked one on top of another, with hands still tied and bullet holes in the skull.

They corroborated witness accounts of the police making victims crouch in trenches before shooting them in the head. Children's bones were found with toy marbles.

''Villagers were mobilized to dig anti-air-raid trenches when their towns were communist rule,'' said Ahn Kyung-ho, a former truth  commission investigator who still works with Mr. Park in excavating burial sites.

''When South Korean forces took over, they were taken to the same trenches and executed.''

The commission's work proved deeply divisive, with conservative politicians condemning it as an ideologically driven campaign to discredit their fight against Communism.

By the time President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative, shut it down in 2010, Mr. Park's team had excavated only 11 of 168 potential mass burial sites, recovering 1,600 sets of remains, a small traction of the tens of thousands of civilians killed.

Families felt dejected. Their efforts to  reinstate the commission have remained stuck in Parliament, even after President MoonJae-in, a liberal, took office in 2017.

In 2014, their advocates started a nongovernmental excavation team and asked Mr. Park to lead it.

By then, Mr. Park was retired and ready to join his Korean-American wife in Washington.

Both his children grew up as United States citizens and live in America now. His son works in the  United States Agency for  International Development. His daughter works at a software company after a stint in the White House.

''I asked my wife to give me five years before joining her,'' Mr. Park said. ''It looks like I have to ask her for five more years.''

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Grandparents, Parents, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world.

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SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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