“Why do North Koreans hate us?” When more Americans, especially the young, are asking this question in the wake of Pyongyang’s missile tests, some journalists are digging up the U.S. war crimes for their information.
Two of these recent investigative reports were published by Newsweek, one of the mainstream news media, and The Intercept, an online journal, both in May2017.
Tom O’Connor’s 1,347-word Newsweek article “What war with North Korea looked like in the 1950s and why it matters now” [Note 1] not just reports the painful numbers such as “…635,000 tons of explosives … including 32,557 tons of napalm … U.S. bombs killed off 20 percent of the population …”, but also draws readers’ attention to facts that the “brutality of the Korean War has largely been overlooked by U.S. history”.
Since the atrocities had been “underreported” for so long, the article quotes Bruce Cumings’ view that “Americans generally, and that includes most of our leaders, don’t understand or know how much about the Korea War…… That sets up a very dangerous situation, where two countries are like ships passing in the night, not understanding the other side, and therefore not really knowing the enemy and what they are after.”
For the first time in a mainstream U.S. media, it admits that “Kim Jong Un’s efforts to stabilize the economy have gone relatively underreported.” Furthermore, the article ends with a highlight that “the official page dedicated to the Korean War at the State Department’s Office of the Historian website, remained down …” It apparently makes readers feel a bit uneasy with the Government.
Mehdi Hasan’s 1,135-word article published by The Intercept is titled as “Why do North Koreans hate us? One Reason — They remember the Korean War”[Note 2].
It provides more details about the War’s ferocity. Readers, for example, can somehow sense the extent of horror when they come to this: “U.S. warplanes, having run out of military targets, had bombed farms, dams factories, and hospitals. ‘I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe,’ the Supreme Court justice confessed, ‘but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.”
Perhaps, some knowledgeable readers are able to realize that, with reference to Veterans For Peace’s article “B-29 Operations in the Korean War 1953” written by bomber pilot Chuck Overby, the bombing of the North Korean Toksang irrigation dam was equivalent to the Nazi German’s bombing of dams in Holland in 1944 which “had been deemed a war crime at Nuremberg” [Note 3].
The Intercept essay puts forward a total of six questions to ask “how many Americans” have ever come across or heard of the various facts and data about the War, and concludes by suggesting that “ordinary Americans can no longer afford to forget the death, destruction, and debilitating legacy of the original Korean War”.
Other recent media coverage, though still very limited, includes a commentary at Counterpunch on three New York Times opinion pieces regarding U.S.policy, and a Bruce Cumings’ article in The Nation (also reposted by The 4thMedia). The most detailed one is the Peace History Society’s “US Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide — The Korean War: Barbarism Unleashed”[Note 4]. However limited their influence may be, it is better than none like the situation in the 2000s and before.
It seems some editors of the mainstream news media have noticed such anawakening or beginning of the change of tide which would probably make the White House (and the Pentagon) more difficult in winning the public opinion on their side, they therefore let go some soft toned theses which propose an ‘acceptance’ of Pyongyang government’s position.
The first example is the Huffington Post’s “Avoiding Apocalypse on the Korean Peninsula” on May 6 [Note 5]. The author, Professor Rajan Menon who is a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University, points out that “(m)any Americans know about the bombing of Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki and the deliberate targeting of civilians in an attempt to break their morale.
But few know what happened to North Korea in the early 1950s.” His untold warning behind this point is that by the time more Americans become aware of the U.S. war crimes, the public opinion could be out of control. Therefore, he proposes a “future settlement that includes a stage-by-stage U.S. military withdrawal”.
Another example which is much more notable is Mark Bowden’s 7,000-word article in The Atlantic’s July/August 2017 issue — “How to deal with North Korea: There are no good options. But some are worse than others” [Note 6]. It even provides a Chinese translation of up to 13,000 words. Bowden suggests that:
“…… For all these reasons, acceptance is how the current crisis should and will most likely play out. No one is going to announce this policy. No president is going to openly acquiesce to Kim’s ownership of a nuclear-tipped ICBM, but just as George W. Bush quietly swallowed Pyongyang’s successful explosion of an atom bomb, and just as Barack Obama met North Korea’s subsequent nuclear tests and missile launches with strategic patience, Trump may well find himself living with something similar.”
Given these signs of visible changes in the pundits’ views which to certain extent reflect some altering trend of public opinion, it is not a surprise that the Moon Jae-in administration in Seoul made a proposal for talks with North Korea “to ease tension and bring about peace” and that the Red Cross also suggested to resume the family reunion project on July 17[Note 7].
It may be too early to say that there is a generational change of American public opinion but at least we can see a new direction is brewing when the news media are more willing to let the American public know what their government had done in the Korean War 1950-53. And this change matters.
By Mr. Keith K C Hui from Hong Kong
The 4th Media
Newsweek, “What war with North Korea looked like in the 1950s and why it matters now”, May 4, 2017.
The Intercept, “Why do North Koreans hate us? One reason — They remember the Korean War”, May 3, 2017.
Veteran For Peace, “B-29 Operations in the Korean War, 1953”.
Counterpunch, “No exit? The NY Times and North Korea”, Apr 26, 2017.
The Nation, “This is what’s really behind North Korea’s nuclear provocations”, Apr 10, 2017.
Peace History Society’s United States Foreign Policy: History & Resource Guide, “The Korean War: Barbarism Unleashed”, 2016.
Huffington Post, “Avoiding Apocalypse on the Korean Peninsula”, May 6, 2017.
The Atlantic, “How to deal with North Korea”, July/Aug 2017 Issue.
Reuters, “New South Korea government proposes military talks with North”, July 17, 2017.