North Korea’s version of the Korean War

Friday 26th June, 2015

The 25th of June marks the 65th anniversary of the commencement of the Korean War. But escapees say that they had learnt of a completely different version of history.

The 25th of June is the commemoration of the start of the Korean War. Over half a century ago, a conflict between North and South Korea resulted in the division of a nation, and the forced separation of thousands of families.

Escapee Kim Kyung-Jin (80) testifies, “Before I defected, I once visited the ‘War Memorial of Liberation and Victory. The young guide that escorted us at the time explained to visitors that ‘the Korean War was a victory led by the strength and wisdom of Kim Il Sung, and two imperialist nations were defeated in one generation by the Supreme Leader of one hundred battles and one hundred victories’.”

By the words, “two imperialist nations in one generation”, the North Korean government refers to the United States of America and Japan. North Korea purports that the Korean War was provoked by the American and South Korean forces, including this information in its school syllabus. The Korean War is more commonly known in North Korea by the name, ‘The Great War of the Liberation of the Motherland’, and described as ‘the victorious war where America raised its hands in surrender’, along with other similar propaganda.

Kim says that he was shocked when, after his escape, he observed the cenotaphs of war memorials in South Korea. Specifically, he recalls the number of participating nations in the war and the overwhelming casualties. He says that he could see an intention to pass on this information to future generations to remind them of the sacrifices that were made during the Korean War.

“Until now, I had been under the false impression that South Korea had started the Korean War. I simply could not imagine in my wildest dreams that the Kim Il Sung I saw in various propaganda, always clad in white clothes and smiling brightly, would ever start a war to hurt our own people,” he confesses.

“Since settling, I have been able to obtain a clearer understanding. During the war, the North Koreans called on the help of Chinese military corps when it began to lose the battle against UN forces. The intervention of 100 000 soldiers of China’s Eighth Route Army was followed by the loss of countless  lives. I still remember the festive atmosphere that day in October, 1950 when the Eighth Route Army entered North Korean through Sinuiju,” he recalls.

Kim furthered, “Whether the war is won or lost, history must be passed accurately to future generations. That North Korea fought a three years war alone is absolutely false. But in North Korea, everything is being described and taught as though all achievements and services during the war were carried out by Kim Il Sung.”

Jang Ki-Chul, from Pyeongseong, arrived in South Korea in 2013. He testified, “In the largest and most extravagant war memorial in Pyongyang, the North Korean government erected statues of North Korean war heroes including Lee Su-Bok. On the other hand, a grave for the Chinese Liberation Forces was erected in a barren, unpopulated area of the country. You can still view the neglected grave at Seongheung Gwangsan village, in Hoechang-gun, Pyongnam Province. Secluded and overgrowing with weeds, a lonesome statue to Chinese soldiers stands.”


Reporting by Park, Ju-Hee.

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