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"Critical Application of Witness Commentaries: The Case of Guerrilla Warfare in the Korean War"

"증언자료의 비판적 활용 - 6.25전쟁 시기 유격대의 경우"

  • Published : 2005.10.31

Abstract

The anticommunist guerrillas' activities that aretheconcern of this article took place largely in North Korea or behind the enemy-held lines. Verifying their history is accordingly difficult and requires careful attention, but despite their active operations the military as well as the scholarly community have been lax in studying them. The Korean War came to be perceived as a traditional, limited war with regular battles, so that the studies addressed mostly the regular operations, and guerrilla warfare is remembered as an almost 'exclusive property' of the communist invaders; a small wonder that the anticommunist guerrillas have not been studied much and the collection of materials neglected. Therefore, in contrast with the witness accounts concerning regular battles, witness resources were of a small volume about these "patriots without the service numbers." For the above reasons the guerrilla participants and their later-organized fellowships took to the task of leaving records and compiling the histories of their units. They became active preservers of history in order to inform later generations of their works and also to secure deserved benefits from the government, in a world where none recognized their achievements. For instance, 4th Donkey Unit published witness accounts in addition to a unit history, and left video-recordings of guerrilla witnesses before any institute systematized the oral history of the guerrillas. In the case of Kyulsa ("Resolved to Die") Guerrilla Unit, the unit history was 10 times revised and expanded upon for publication, contributing substantially to the recovery of anticommunist guerrilla history which had almost totally lacked documented resources. Now because the guerrilla-related witness accounts were produced through fellowship societies and not individually, it often took the form of 'collective memory.' As a result, though thousands of former guerrillas remain surviving, the scarcity of numerous versions of, or perspectives upon, an event renders difficult an objective approach to the historical truth. Even requests to verify the service of a guerrilla member or to apply for decoration or government benefits for those killed in action, the process is taken care of not at the hands of the first party but the veteran society, so that a variety of opinions are not available for consideration. Moreover, some accounts were taken by American military personnel, and since some historians, unaware of official documents or evaluation of achievements, tended to center the records around their own units and especially to exaggerate the units' performances, they often featured factual errors. Thefollowing is the means to utilize positively the aforementioned type of witness accounts in military history research. It involves the active use of military historical detachments (MHD). As in the examples of those dispatched by the American forces during the Korean War, experts should be dispatched during, and not just after, wartimes. By considering and investigating the differences among various perspectives on the same historical event, even without extra documented resources it is possibleto arrive at theerrors or questionable points of the oral accounts, supplementing the additional accounts. Therefore any time lapses between witness accounts must be kept in consideration. Moreover when the oral accounts come from a group such as participants in the same guerrilla unit or operation, a standardized list of items ought to be put to use. Education in oral history is necessary not just for the training of experts. In America wherethefield sees much activity, it is used not only in college or graduate programs but also in elementary and lifetime educational processes. In comparison in our nation, and especially in historical disciplines, methodological insistence upon documented evidences prevails in the main, and in the fields of nationalist movement or modern history, oral accounts do not receive adequate attention. Like ancient documents and monuments, oral history also needs to be made a regular part of diverse resource materials at our academic institutes for history. Courses in memory and history, such as those in American colleges, are available possibilities.