In the runup to the 1988 Olympics, the South Korean government ordered Seoul's "vagrants" to be cleared from the street. Thousands of people, many of them small children, were sent to a "welfare facility" called "Brothers Home," where they were subject to vicious, often fatal beatings and routine rape. The order to round up the vagrants came from then-President Park Chung-hee (father of current President Park Geun-hye) whose successor, President Chun Doo-hwan, suppressed any investigation into the atrocities.
In a remarkable and chilling piece of investigative journalism, the AP's Kim Tong-Hyung and Foster Klug collected first-person accounts of the camp's brutality, including those of former inmate Lee Chae-sik, a trustee who had "extraordinary access" as assistant to the camp's chief enforcer.
The people in the camp were put to slave labor, forced to produce goods that ended up in the supply chains of multinationals like Daewoo, who sent their own staff to supervise the slaves' training.
The camp's inmates were homeless people, but also many disabled people and young children. Also represented were college students who were disappeared from public life after participating in anti-government activism.
This is not the only official tale of modern slavery from South Korea: a 2015 report detailed slave labor facilities that victimized people with developmental delays, which had run for decades and continued to operate, despite frequent exposes.
The Olympics -- whose executive committee included the disgraced fraudster Sepp Blatter until less than a year ago -- have a reputation for locating their events in places were local strongmen will assist in ethnic cleansing, corporate brand-censorship, and even -- as was the case with the London summer games -- siting surface-to-air missiles on residential roofs and reserving lanes on public roads for the use of Olympic sponsors.
The owner of Brothers, Park, received two state medals for social welfare achievements and sat on a government advisory panel. His version of his story even inspired a 1985 television drama about a man's heroic devotion to caring for what were called "bottom-life people."
Park eventually served a short prison stint for embezzlement and other relatively minor charges, but not for the abuse at Brothers. When the facility was at last raided in 1987, investigators found a vault in Park's office filled with the current equivalent of about $5 million in U.S. and Japanese currencies and certificates of deposit.
In his autobiography, in court hearings and in talks with close associates, Park has denied wrongdoing and maintained that he simply followed government orders. Repeated attempts to contact him through family, friends and activists were unsuccessful.
The AP, however, tracked down the former second-highest management official at Brothers, Lim Young-soon, who bristled in a telephone interview at descriptions of corruption, violence and slavery at the facility. Lim, a Protestant pastor now in Australia who is the brother of Park's wife, said Park was a "devoted" social worker who made Busan better by cleaning its streets of troublemakers. He said Brothers' closure "damaged national interests."
Lim acknowledged beating deaths at Brothers, but said they were caused by clashes between inmates. He attributed the facility's high death toll to the many inmates he said arrived there in poor physical and mental health.
"These were people who would have died in the streets anyway," Lim said.
AP: S. Korea covered up mass abuse, killings of 'vagrants'
[Kim Tong-Hyung and Foster Klug/AP]
(via Super Punch)