Posts filed under 'North Korea'

1950: The Chaplain-Medic Massacre

Add comment July 16th, 2016 Headsman

One of the noteworthy atrocities to decorate the chaotic early weeks of the Korean War took place on this date in 1950: the Chaplain-Medic Massacre.

Named by the Joe McCarthy-led Senate committee that in 1953 set out to catalogue (pdf) “a series of war crimes against American and United Nations personnel which constituted one of the most heinous and barbaric epochs of recorded history,” the Chaplain-Medic affair stars a chaplain and (wait for it) a medic.

During the Battle of Taejon in mid-January as the North Korean army swept down the peninsula, it committed a number of war crimes against American POWs.

In this instance, the North Korean 3rd Division came upon some 20 to 30 injured Americans of the 19th Infantry in the hills outside the village of Tuman. They had been left during a withdrawal in difficult terrain by their comrades who could no longer carry them, in hopes that another American detachment would pass through who could escort them back to friendly lines.

With them were two uninjured and unarmed non-combatants who had voluntarily remained behind to succor the stricken men: Catholic chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter, and medic Linton J. Buttrey.

As the North Korean patrol approached, Buttrey was able to flee. (He would later testify to McCarthy’s committee.) Felhoelter, remaining, knelt to issue extreme unction to his comrades and was executed mid-prayer … followed by all the wounded men in his care.

Buttrey earned the Silver Star for remaining to treat the wounded men. Felhoelter was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; his name appears on Arlington National Cemetery’s Chaplain’s Hill monument to slain military clergy.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Execution,History,Korea,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,North Korea,Shot,Soldiers,South Korea,Summary Executions,USA,Wartime Executions

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1985: Major Zin Mo, failed assassin

Add comment April 6th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1985, North Korean Major Zin Mo was hanged in Buma’s Insein prison.

Eighteen months earlier nearly to the day, a huge bomb ripped apart Rangoon’s monumental mausoleum tribute to martyred founding hero Aung San.

The bomb was meant for visiting South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan,* who planned to lay a wreath at the site. But the infernal machine detonated too early, sparing its target — though 21 others lost their lives, 17 of them Korean, including Foreign Minister Lee Beom-seok.

The ensuing manhunt turned up three North Korean commandos, each of whom had been detailed short-fused grenades to commit spectacular suicide to evade capture.

Zin Kee-Chu started pulling stuff out of his bag. First a pile of money came out and while the policemen were temporarily distracted by the cash he then pulled out a hand grenade and detonated right there.

Their hand grenades had short 1 second fuses unlike our M-36 hand grenades with the longer 4 seconds fuses. So the explosion was immediate and some policemen and Captain Zin Kee-Chu himself were killed there. (Source)

But Major Zin Mo survived his explosives, albeit with devastating injuries, and fellow-captain Kang Min Chul lacked the fortitude to make the suicide attempt at all. Under none-too-gentle interrogation, Zin Mo kept his mouth shut and accepted his secret execution for the People’s Republic. Zin Kee-Chu didn’t have any better stomach to hang for his country than to blow himself up for it; he didn’t hang and lived out his life in Burmese captivity, having apparently cut a deal to tell all in exchange for his life.

There’s a phenomenal firsthand retrospective on these events, liberally illustrated, here, written by a present-day Burmese exile who was in Rangoon on the day the mausoleum was bombed.

* Chun was the guy who emerged in charge after Korea’s intelligence chief bizarrely assassinated President Park Chung-hee in 1979.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Attempted Murder,Burma,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Korea,Murder,North Korea,Notable for their Victims,Soldiers,Terrorists,Torture

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2013: Jang Sung-taek, North Korean purgee

Add comment December 12th, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 2013, according to North Korea’s state news organ, Kim Jong-un‘s uncle was sentenced to death and directly executed.

Days earlier, Jang Sung-taek (alternatively, Song-taek, Sung-thaek, and various similar transliterations) had suffered an extremely visible fall when, in a Saddam-like twist, he was arrested on live television in the midst of a politburo meeting.


Image from KCTV (North Korea) shows Jang Sung-taek being arrested during a politburo meeting in Pyongyang.

Even so, the severity of his treatment was a surprise given his family tie to the supreme leader (he was the husband of Kim Jong-il‘s sister).

Long one of the secretive state’s top officials — his prestige recovered from two previous falls from favor in the late 1980s and early 2000s — Jang was among the officials involved in the transfer of power from the late Kim Jong-il to the young dictator Kim Jong-un. Though it is uncertain exactly what brought about his destruction — speculation ran to differing philosophies of economic development and/or raw power rivalry — a denounced by North Korea as “despicable human scum … worse than a dog” for his “thrice-cursed acts of treachery” and “decadent capitalist lifestyle.”

Jang was executed by shooting: machine gun fire in the “normal” version, or the more spectacular novelty of anti-aircraft fire by some accounts. (Reports to the effect that Jang was executed by being fed to a pack of wild dogs can still be found, but this story was fabricated by a satirist and its subsequent circulation cautions against a propensity to give credence to every lurid rumor about North Korea.)

Jang’s fall reportedly also brought about the execution of “all relatives” and hundreds of officials who were considered members of his faction.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Korea,Mass Executions,North Korea,Politicians,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Treason

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1969: Lee Soogeun, North Korean defector

Add comment July 3rd, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1969, alleged North Korean operative Lee Soogeun (other transliterations exist for his given name, such as Soo Keun or Soo-geun) was hanged at a Seoul prison for espionage.

A North Korean party elite, Lee was the Vice President of the North Korean Central News Agency.

On March 22, at the Military Armistice Commission meetings at the border outpost of Panmunjom, Lee suddenly leapt into a UN official’s vehicle and escaped over the frontier.

The high-profile defector got a hero’s welcome in the South. (A U.S. Army captain also copped a medal for helping him escape.)

Lee hit the lecture circuit critically discussing the situation north of the 38th parallel, and worked as an analyst for South Korean intelligence.

However, the KCIA also had Lee under surveillance, and came to believe that he was actually gathering intelligence to send to the north. Realizing his predicament, Lee fled with his niece for Cambodia. They were captured en route in Vietnam.

South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has, while stopping short of exonerating Lee, ruled his confinement illegal, and the self-incriminating statements he made in that environment insufficient evidence, and urged his case be re-tried. Lee’s niece served 20 years of a life sentence as his accomplice, but was released in 1989 and eventually won a 6.8 billion won wrongful imprisonment suit.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,Hanged,History,Intellectuals,Korea,North Korea,South Korea,Spies,Wrongful Executions

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2011: Ryu Kyong, Kim Jong-un rival

1 comment January 4th, 2012 Headsman

Sometime in early January — nobody seems to know quite when — North Korean intelligence official Ryu Kyong disappeared, apparently executed.

The number two man, and perhaps de facto number one man, in the State Security Department and a longtime Kim Jon-il ally, Ryu was reportedly “summoned by Kim Jong-il in early January and on his way to Kim’s residence, was arrested by members of the General Guard Bureau. He was interrogated and secretly executed.”

Speculative reason: the Leader viewed Ryu as having grown too powerful, and therefore as a potential rival to a clean succession for Kim Jong-un.

“With Ryu, many others were purged at the State Security Department,” a Seoul analyst said. “We can say that as he gained control of the department, Kim Jong-un needed to give jobs to people loyal to him.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Korea,North Korea,Notable Participants,Politicians,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Torture,Uncertain Dates

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2011: Two leaflet-readers

1 comment January 3rd, 2012 Headsman

South Korean activists have in recent years taken to balloon-lifting propaganda leaflets over the DMZ into North Korea — including on the occasion of the recent leadership succession.

North Korea is not amused by this tactic and has pressured — and even militarily threatened — South Korea to clamp down on it. But that’s nothing next to the clampdown within North Korea.

On this date in 2011, according to an activist whose father is a North Korea abductee, two were publicly shot for the crime of handling these leaflets.

An army officer who pocketed dollar bills enclosed with the leaflets was shot along with a 45-year-old woman who concealed one of the flyers, said Choi Sung-Yong.

He said the executions were carried out on January 3 at Sariwon, 45 kilometres (27 miles) south of Pyongyang, in front of 500 spectators following a special ideological session on the leaflets.

Choi, citing a source in Sariwon, told AFP that six members of the victims’ families had been sent to a camp for political prisoners.

“North Korea apparently carried out the executions to teach a lesson to its people,” Choi said.

He said the regime appeared to have tightened ideological control as it grooms the youngest son of leader Kim Jong-Il as eventual successor to his father.

Those dollar bills that cost the army officer his life are, very sadly, enclosed with some leaflets to induce North Koreans to pick them up despite the risk to life and limb.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Innocent Bystanders,Korea,North Korea,Power,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,South Korea

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1950: American soldiers during the Korean War

Add comment July 10th, 2011 Headsman

Jensen’s counterattack [during the Battle of Chochiwon in the opening days of the Korean War] in the afternoon [of July 10] uncovered the first known North Korean mass atrocity perpetrated on captured American soldiers. The bodies of six Americans, jeep drivers and mortar-men of the Heavy Mortar Company, were found with hands tied in back and shot through the back of the head. Infiltrating enemy soldiers had captured them in the morning when they were on their way to the mortar position with a resupply of ammunition. An American officer farther back witnessed the capture. One of the jeep drivers managed to escape when the others surrendered. (Source, specifically)


Photograph of a U.S. Army 21st Infantry Regiment soldier executed July 10, 1950.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Korea,Mass Executions,Milestones,No Formal Charge,North Korea,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,USA,Wartime Executions

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2010: Jeong Dae-Sung and Lee Ok-Geum, for escaping North Korea

Add comment January 8th, 2011 Headsman

On an uncertain date in early to mid-January 2010, North Korea put to death husband and wife Jeong Dae-sung and Lee Ok-Geum for attempting to defect, along with family friend Song Gwang Cheol for assisting them.

Early that month, the People’s Republic announced the “50-day battle” against unreliable elements … like defectors.

The “battle’s” battle plan included “shooting everybody connected to South Chosun [i.e., South Korea] no matter what they did. This case seems to be a model part of that battle.”

Bad timing for Jeong and family: they escaped North Korea to China in July 2009, along with two young children and Jeong’s 63-year-old mother. Their intent was to make it to Mongolia, and there catch a flight to Seoul.

Instead, they were caught by Chinese authorities and repatriated,* and interrogated — we expect not too gently — into giving up their neighbor Song Gwang Cheol.

After the executions, surviving members of both families were hauled away to a prison camp and to internal exile.

* North Koreans in China are in a pretty unenviable position. Beijing considers them economic migrants, not refugees, and therefore repatriates them to dreadful fates in their homeland; and yet, because of the militarized border between the Koreas, anyone wanting to defect or escape basically has to go to China, and then through China — either on to Southeast Asia, or across the Gobi to Mongolia. (Mongolia “repatriates” illegal Korean migrants back to South Korea.)

This Congressional Research Service report (pdf) makes depressing reading on the subject.

Part of the Themed Set: 2010.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Korea,North Korea,Power,Shot,Treason,Uncertain Dates

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1974: Mun Segwang, errant assassin

1 comment December 20th, 2009 Headsman

This morning in Seoul, Mun Segwang (various similar transliterations possible) was hanged for an assassination attempt four months earlier.

Mun, a Japanese-reared Korean who needed a translator for his subsequent trial, tried to gun down dictator Park Chung-hee at a Independence Day speech Aug. 15.

Mun missed Park, but he did kill two others: a high school student; and, Park’s wife Yuk Yeong-su, the seated white-clad figure in the middle of the assassination footage who can be seen beginning to crumple on stage as the camera pans away.

South Korea figured him as the agent of a North Korean/Communist plot, which conclusion Japan and the North rejected vehemently. (Trial evidence also indicated that he read The Day of the Jackal.)

Park got lucky this time, but the autocrat was successfully iced five years later by his own intelligence chief. (Guess what happened to him.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,Korea,Murder,North Korea,Shot,South Korea

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2007: Five women in Hoiryeong Public Stadium

Add comment October 7th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2007, according to the Daily NK, five women were publicly tried, then immediately shot, in Hoiryeong Public Stadium in North Korea’s North Hamkyung province.

Their crime, “prostitution”, is supposed to be a euphemism for aiding refugees escaping to China in the area that also generated an infamous execution film broadcast on Japanese television in 2005. (And other death sentences earlier in 2007. North Korea is not enthusiastic about escapees.)

As usual with the insular state, details are hard to come by. The North Korean Human Rights Infringement Center claimed Pyongyang carried out 901 public executions in 2007; that figure would potentially make it the world’s #2 (after China) death penalty user, though Amnesty International doesn’t even venture a tally of North Korean executions.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Known But To God,Korea,Mass Executions,North Korea,Power,Public Executions,Shot,Women

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