Sinchon Massacre

The Sinchon Massacre (Korean: 신천 양민학살 사건,[1] Hanja: 信川良殺事件,[1] Sinchon Civilian Massacre[1]) was an alleged massacre of civilians between 17 October and 7 December 1950,[1] in or near the town of Sinchon (currently part of South Hwanghae Province, North Korea). North Korean sources claim the massacre was committed by South Korean military forces under the authorization of the U.S. military and that 30–35,000 people were killed. Other sources dispute the death toll and accuse Korean right-wing security police and communists of the killings.[3][4] The event allegedly took place during the second phase of the Korean War and the retreat of the DPRK government from Hwanghae Province.

Sinchon Massacre
Part of Korean War
LocationSinchon, North Korea
Date17 October – 7 December 1950[1]
TargetSinchon residents[1]
Attack type
Deaths30,000[1]–35,380,[2] (North Korean claim)
AccusedSouth Korean Army, United States Armed Forces (North Korean claim)[1]
The location of South Hwanghae Province.
The location of Sinchon in South Hwanghae Province.

North Korean claimEdit

North Korean sources claim that approximately 35,000 people were killed by American military forces and their supporters during the span of 52 days. This figure represents about one-quarter of the population of Sinchon at the time.[5] The Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities, established in 1958, displays the remains and belongings of those who were allegedly killed in the incident.[6] In schools, North Koreans are taught that Americans "hammered nails into victims' heads" and "sliced off women's breasts." Officials "copy all the images from the museum and plaster them all over school corridors."[7]

Kim Jong-il visited the museum in 1998. Kim Jong-un visited in November 2014 to "strengthen the anti-U.S. lessons for our military and people... and to powerfully unite the 10 million soldiers and people in the battle against the United States."[8] In July 2015, Kim Jong-un visited again with senior military official Hwang Pyong-so, revealing a major expansion of the Sinchon massacre museum.[9]

NGO claimsEdit

In a report prepared in Pyongyang, the non-governmental but allegedly[citation needed]Communist-affiliated International Association of Democratic Lawyers lists several alleged incidents of mass murder by U.S. soldiers in Sinchon.[10] In addition, they claimed that the American troops had beheaded up to 300 North Koreans using Japanese samurai swords, and that the US Air Force was using bacteriological warfare in Korea.[11]:156 Relying on oral testimony from North Koreans, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers report claims that the Sinchon massacre was overseen by a General "Harrison" or "Halison"; an apparent reference to William Kelly Harrison, whom they allege personally conducted many of the atrocities. Their report claims that Harrison took photos of the massacre; however, there is no evidence to confirm their testimony.

Harrison was reportedly shocked by the claim.[12] Investigative reports have concluded there was no Harrison in the area at the time, and that this was either a pseudonym or a false claim. The Museum in Sinchon has a photo of a man, allegedly Harrison, giving the full name "Harrison D. Maddon." The photo shows a tall man standing to the left of a wreath with a UN flag over it, his back turned to the camera, his face not visible, holding a cap in his hand behind his back, and another, indistinct object visible immediately in front of the man.[13][3][14]

According to Dong-Choon Kim, a former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Sinchon massacre was carried out by "right-wing security police and a youth group."[2] Sunghoon Han says that "right-wing security units" were responsible for the killings.[11]:157–158, 166–167

The Institute for Korean Historical Studies concluded that both Communists and anti-Communist vigilantes engaged in wholesale slaughter throughout the area, and that the 19th Infantry Regiment took the city and failed to prevent the secret police that came with them from perpetuating the civilian murders; however, the regiment did not participate themselves. Furthermore, when Communists retook the city, the population was again purged.[3][4] Other sources have concluded that the "massacre" was caused by a local rivalry that used the fog of war as a pretense.[15]

In 1989, Chicago Tribune journalist Uli Schmitzer wrote,

If any truth about massacres in Chichon (Sinchon) ever existed, the evidence has long ago been obscured. The town, 70 miles [110 km] south of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, has been turned into a national shrine by a ruthless propaganda machine that has fueled anti-American passions for 36 years in support of an institutionalized, regimented communist regime.[16]

Author Bruce Cumings, in his book War and Television, stated

the major part of the Sinch’on massacres were carried out by Korean Christians who had fled the Sinch’on area for the South. In my opinion, If any Americans were present they were probably KMAG [Korean Military Advisory Group] personnel, who witnessed many South Korean atrocities against civilians; the Koreans I spoke with were adamant that Americans had carried out the massacres, but it is also true that Koreans do not like to admit that Koreans could do such things, unless they are following American or (in the colonial period) Japanese orders.[17][18]

Representation in other mediaEdit

  • South Korean novelist Hwang Sok-yong's novel The Guest, based on interviews with a Korean Christian pastor, addresses the Sinchon massacre.[11]:153

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "< 북에서의 6.25 `미군만행' 확인될까 >". JoongAng Daily (in Korean). 2001-05-16. Archived from the original on 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  2. ^ a b Kim, Dong-Choon (December 2004). "Forgotten war, forgotten massacres—the Korean War (1950–1953) as licensed mass killings". Journal of Genocide Research. 6 (4): 536. doi:10.1080/1462352042000320592.
  3. ^ a b c Institute for Korean Historical Studies. 《사진과 그림으로보는 북한현대사》 p91~p93
  4. ^ a b The Truth About the Sinchun Massacre Archived June 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "More Remains and Relics Displayed at Sinchon Museum". KCNA. 26 November 2008. Archived from the original on 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2015-04-04.
  6. ^ Past news Archived 2011-06-09 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Interviews with North Korean who escaped".
  8. ^ Finley, JC (November 25, 2014). "North Korea's Kim Jong Un labels Americans 'cannibals'". UPI. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  9. ^ Shim, Elizabeth (July 22, 2015). "Kim Jong Un visits anti-U.S. museum ahead of war anniversary". UPI. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea" Archived 2013-10-02 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b c Han, Sunghoon (March 2015). "The Ongoing Korean War at the Sinch'ŏn Museum in North Korea" (PDF). Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (14): 152–177. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  12. ^ Facts Forum vol. 4, no. 6 (1955), p. 5
  13. ^ "General Harrison Maddon Illustration - Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities". 2009-09-18.
  14. ^ The Truth About the Sinchun Massacre
  15. ^ Review: Hwang Sok-yong, The Guest (Seven Stories Press, 2005)
  16. ^ [1], Chicago Tribune, 21 August 1989
  17. ^ Adam Cathcart, "Notes on the Sinchon Massacre", Blog, 16 May 2015
  18. ^ Bruce Cummings, War and Television, 1994

Further readingEdit

  • Jong-yil Ra "Governing North Korea. Some Afterthoughts on the Autumn of 1950". Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 40, No. 3 (Jul., 2005), pp. 521–546 doi:10.1177/0022009405054570