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New Silmido Testimony Surfaces

Posted November. 09, 2005 03:02,   


It was confirmed yesterday that the Ministry of Defense has found testimony written by four members of the “Silmido” unit who were put to death for the 1971 Silmido incident.

A military source said the ministry found the handwritten testimony by the four survivors of the incident in the archives of the air force a few months ago. On August 23, 1971, members of the Silmido unit hijacked a bus and blew themselves up with a hand grenade on their way to Seoul.

The four were sentenced to death on charges of the killing military guards, murder, and arson in a court-martial. They are known to have written a 10-page long testimony right before their executions in Oryu-dong, Seoul in March 1972.

The four people, known only by their surnames, Lim, Lee, and Kim (two), are said to have written down details like how they had joined the unit whose soldiers were trained to be sent to North Korea, the tough training, and their wages.

In particular, it is also said that they testified that their wages were several-months overdue. That raises the possibility that they were formally granted status as soldiers by the military authorities, contrary to the official announcement made by the Ministry of Defense at that time that all of them were civilians.

The four soldiers are also said to have expressed their feelings before the executions such as “I feel chagrined that I have to die without blowing up the Palace of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung,” and, “I miss my family so much.”

A military official said, “The recently found testimony is the only known document written by the Silmido soldiers. It will be very important to get to the bottom of the Silmido incident.”

The Ministry of Defense is said to be considering making the document public when it reveals the results of the Silmido incident investigation by the military fact-finding committee on the past at the end of this year.

The committee is digging up bodies around the Seoul city graveyard in Gyeonggi-do where Silmido members who lost their lives in a gunfight with military guards are thought to be buried, and on the hill behind the airfield where the executed members are thought to be buried.

In May, the Ministry of Defense sent a death notice to families of 21 identified members out of a total of 31 under the name of the head of the special fact-finding team on the Silmido incident.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com