News of the WeekSOUTH KOREA

Forensic Finds Add Substance to Claims of War Atrocities

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Science  24 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5939, pp. 374-375
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_374

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In February 1951, South Korean villagers fleeing advancing troops sought refuge on Bulgap Mountain. When soldiers and police stormed the ridge and found only civilians, survivors claim, they dug a long trench, forced the civilians to kneel inside, and then shot them or thrust sharpened bamboo sticks down their throats. Women and children were among the victims. When South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRCK) began to investigate the Bulgap massacre last year, some commissioners doubted the recollections of elderly survivors who had lived there when the atrocity occurred but had not witnessed it. But the survivors have been vindicated by new forensic finds. Last week, TRCK revealed evidence from an ongoing excavation confirming Bulgap as one of the Korean War's darker chapters. The team has found adult skeletons bent at the knees with finger bones clasped behind their skulls and artifacts that rebel soldiers would have had no use for, such as a woman's hairpin and toys. Investigators here have unearthed bones of several children, the first such verified remains from a Korean War-era massacre site.