How The U.S. Government Has Supported The Deaths Of Hundreds Of Thousands

Published October 18, 2016
Updated February 14, 2017

South Korea

Repressive Regimes Park Kennedy

The Korea HeraldPark Chung-Hee meets with JFK.

The actions of North Korean dictators have shocked the world of late, but many don’t know that for a time South Korea suffered through dictatorships of its own.

In the 1950s, while Kim Il-sung brutally consolidated his control over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, the CIA-supported, anti-communist Syngman Rhee ran the Republic of Korea in the south.

Rhee regularly arrested and occasionally even killed those he suspected of harboring communist sympathies, even presiding over several massacres.

Indeed, In 1950, just before the Korean War, Rhee had approximately 20,000 supposed communists imprisoned, and in June of that year ordered the execution of those who he believed posed a threat to his regime, including leftists and those who collaborated with the Japanese.

A 2006 government commission investigation into the killings estimates that at least 100,000 civilians were executed by the U.S.-backed regime during the Korean War, adding that such a figure is very conservative.

Soldier Bodies

BlogspotBodies of suspected communists following the Bodo League massacre, 1950.

Then, in 1961, South Koreans — who were at this point poorer than North Koreans — saw the rise of Park Chung-Hee, a military general who seized leadership via a coup tacitly supported by the U.S. Upon entering office, Park declared the rule of martial law and amended the constitution to support his own authoritarianism.

While the South Korean economy did begin its decades-long boom under Park, it came at the cost of political repression, corruption, and even violence. Park used sham elections to legitimize his rule by decree, which on the less harmful end of things, included dictating the length of men’s hair and women’s dresses.

On the more extreme end, Park was known to threaten and torture lawmakers who disagreed with him — going so far as to execute eight individuals whose politics Park viewed as threatening to his regime in 1975. The CIA and State Department supported Park every step of the way, until his assassination in 1979.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.