Children’s Day, a riot by POWs and a kidnapped laborerMay 5, 1923
Bang Jeong-hwan was the father of all children on the peninsula. On this date, he established Children’s Day, which is still a legal holiday.
As a writer of children’s novels, Mr. Bang wanted to encourage children to have ambitions and hopes for the future. Mr. Bang died in 1931 at age 32.
But it was during the time of Japanese colonial rule, in 1939, that the colonial government nullified Children’s Day. The first May 5 after the liberation in 1945 saw the resurrection of the holiday.
Thanks to Mr. Bang, every child looks forward to May 5, while parents take pains over where to go. The places to avoid for grown-ups without children include amusement parks and toy shops at department stores ― unless you want to be trampled upon by the throngs of children.
May 9, 1952
Geoje island, off the southeast coast of the peninsula and Korea’s second-biggest, is noted for its scenic beauty. On this date, however, the island was in the midst of a series of bloody riots, stirred up by communist prisoners of war being held there.
After the Korean War ended and before the signing of the armistice, there were about 132,000 prisoners of war on the island, under the command of the United Nations. Dealing with POWs according to the Geneva Convention of 1949 was not an easy task. About a third of the communist POWs allegedly did not wish to be repatriated, leading to much conflict with those communists who remained committed.
The communist POWs started to plan an armed riot to escape and to go back to North Korea. The group began beating and even murdering POWs that refused to go back home.
On this date, a group of 1,500 hard-core communist prisoners overran the compound of the prison’s commander General Francis Dodd. Holding General Dodd hostage, the group asked for better treatment for all POWs and other demands. U.S. forces fired on the group, killing about 70 and injuring more than 140 prisoners.
Then an uprising of communist prisoners began against the U.S. forces, and another 50 prisoners were killed.
It was later learned that the communist group was planning to start a large uprising in June under the guidance of Pyeongyang.
General Haydon Boatner used infantrymen and tanks to regain control of the compound. After putting down the riot, General Boatner decided to divide the anti-communist and communist groups. In the process, it was discovered that 105 anti-communist prisoners had been murdered by the communists.
The camp site remains today as a tourist attraction.
May 11, 1988
Seo Jeong-ui, a worker for Hyundai Engineering and Construction, returned home on this date after being kidnapped.
Mr. Seo had been working to start a labor union, something the company did not take kindly to.
Six days before mysteriously being released, a group of five young men abducted Mr. Seo at the behest of the company and took him to Mokpo in South Jeolla province.
by Chun Su-jin