Every time we think about the atrocities of war, the first thing that comes to our minds is probably Hitler and his concentration camps, or maybe the Japanese and the death march of their prisoners in Bataan, and for good reasons. However, most of us did not know the unimaginable cruelties and atrocities that happened in the Korean War, when about 2 to 4 million people died, 70 percent of which were innocent civilians. No peace treaty was ever signed, although the United States, China, and North Korea agreed on “fundamental and principle levels” to declare a formal end to hostilities that ended in 1953 without an actual peacetreaty.

Beginning of Korean War

The formal beginning of the Korean War was on June 25, 1950, when South Korea invaded around 75,000 members of the North Korean People’s Army. They crossed the 38th parallel, the line created in 1945 to separate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (now North Korea) and the Republic of Korea to the South that was supported by the US. However, what really triggered the war began when the once unified Korea was annexed by Japan after their victory in the Russo-Japanese War. They ruled over Korea all while forbidding them to speak their language and de-emphasizing Korean history. When Japan unconditionally surrendered to the US after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing, the United States and the Soviet Union took over the Korean peninsula. They then divided Korea between themselves, thus the 38th parallel. This division was not based on a sort of political, cultural, or terrain boundaries. The Soviets built a communist government to the North while the United States set up a military government in the South.

There was a lot of disagreement between the Soviet Union and the US occupational forces. There were lots of tensions going on. In 1948, the United States called on the United Nations to sponsor a vote for Koreans to determine their future government. The North refused to participate, so the South decided to form its own anti-communist government in Seoul led by Syngman Rhee. Kim Il Sung, in retaliation, became the Premier of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK.)

“You are about to die the most horrible kind of death.”

In 1954, Charles Potter, through the Committee on Government Operations, compiled more than 200 pages of testimony from Korean War POWs survivors. Here are some of the atrocious experiences that they shared.