Cheju is a small island south of Korea, and events there right after World War II were blamed by some to be a precursor of the Korean War. In 1949, the South Korean government launched a bloody counter-insurgency action against the population of the island, trying to root out imagined leftists. Unfortunately, in their paranoia, they killed about 20,000 innocent peasants as well, around 20% of the total population of Cheju.

In reality, there were only about 400 communist guerillas hidden out in the forests of the island, but the South Korean authorities, backed by the American army, conducted a scorched- earth campaign. They tortured the villagers and burned their houses down. According to the survivors, there is not a single person on the island who did not lose a relative in the chaos. The Americans documented the atrocities, but did not intervene. By the time the killings ended in 1951, when the authorities shifted their attention to the Korean War, the entire island was littered with corpses.

The coverup by the South Korean government was very successful, the secret was suppressed for a good 40 years before the truth was let out. Mass graves were discovered all over the island, which is now a honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds. North Korea actually used Cheju was a reason it attacked South Korea. Cheju may have been the first ideological battleground for the Cold War.

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