The Summer Olympics of 1988 took place in Seoul, South Korea. These Olympics marked a few important moments in history: it was the first time the Olympics took place on mainland Asia, as well as the final time that now non-existent countries, like East Germany and the Soviet Union, competed. 159 nations were represented by 8,391 athletes, making the 1988 Olympics a success.
Behind this international success, however, lies a darker story. In the couple decades before the Olympics took place, the South Korean government rounded up all of the “vagrants,” mostly children and the disabled, but also including the homeless and drunk, and forced them into the Brothers Home, where about 4,000 people were held prisoner out of the 16,000 total vagrants taken.
These vagrants were imprisoned in an attempt to “purify” the streets, as South Korea was still considered a developing country at the time, and the government wanted to have recognition as a modern country. The police often rounded up vagrants on pretenses of forced confessions to crimes they didn’t commit.
At the Brothers Home, the vagrants were forced to work without pay, and the products made were sold internationally. They were also subject to beatings, and many people died as a result of the conditions at Brothers.
“I’m actually very angry and ashamed by the fact that our government did that hideous crime,” said Korean citizen George Kim, a freshman at Valencia High School, when asked by JSR. “I really feel sorry for the victims of this occurrence.”
Huffington Post author Foster Klug found an interview between the Associated Press (AP) and a management official at Brothers Home, Young Soon Lim, in which Lim stated, “These were people who would have died in the streets anyway.”
Lim’s statement shows the brutal “justification” for the camp’s causing numerous deaths that were, in general, unnecessary.
The facilities officially documented 513 deaths, but, according to Klug, most others agree that the real death count was much higher.
Throughout the years, the South Korean government has managed to hide the stories surrounding the Brothers Home, as is evidenced by the government’s blockage of a lawmaker’s wish to revisit a Brothers case. Obviously, since the government is remaining silent on the matter, there is no real question of whether it will provide compensation any time soon.
However, on an international scale, South Korea’s inhumane actions are merely one of many. There are a large number of incidences in which modern countries have committed acts of horror, including Britain’s concentration camps for the Kenyans, Russia’s (at the time, the Soviet Union) prison massacres, and most notably, the United States’ bombing of Dresden.
The bombing of Dresden, like South Korea’s vagrant roundup, is not well known. Dresden, a capital of a state of Germany, was largely uninvolved with World War II, but the Allies of the US and Great Britain dropped a total of about 3,900 tons of explosives on the city, according to History.com. The incident was felt by many as unnecessary to the outcome of the war, mainly because the Allies were already almost guaranteed victory over Germany at the time.
With an estimated 35,000-135,000 people dead, including American prisoners of war, US attempted to defend itself by claiming Dresden housed factories, communications, and transport necessary for the German war effort. According to History.com. other critics, though, found that Dresden had no military significance and that the US had bombed indiscriminately, more or less leaving Dresden leveled.
The events of the bombing of Dresden, among others, prove that there seems to be no country that has not reached goals without a few stains.
“Even though many other countries committed atrocities,” said Kim, “I still don’t believe that Korea was justified in doing what they did. There is no way to fully recompense them, as it’s impossible to fully repay for someone’s life.”