In 1975, South Korean president Park Chung-hee, father of the current president, decided that the cities needed to be cleansed of “vagrants.” According to an AP investigation, unimaginable horror ensued:
“In 1975, dictator President Park Chung-hee, father of current President Park Geun-hye, issued a directive to police and local officials to ‘purify’ city streets of vagrants. Police officers, assisted by shop owners, rounded up panhandlers, small-time street merchants selling gum and trinkets, the disabled, lost or unattended children, and dissidents, including a college student who’d been holding anti-government leaflets.
They ended up as prisoners at 36 nationwide facilities. By 1986, the number of inmates had jumped over five years from 8,600 to more than 16,000, according to government documents obtained by AP.
Nearly 4,000 were at Brothers. But about 90 percent of them didn’t even meet the government’s definition of ‘vagrant’ and therefore shouldn’t have been confined there, former prosecutor Kim Yong Won told the AP, based on Brothers’ records and interviews compiled before government officials ended his investigation.
The inner workings of Brothers are laid bare by former inmate Lee Chae-sik, who had extraordinary access as personal assistant to the man in charge of enforcing the rules. The AP independently verified many of the details provided by Lee, now 46, through government documents.
Lee was sent to Brothers at 13 after trouble at school. His first job was in a medical ward. Twice a day, Lee and four others, none of whom had medical training, would try to care for patients, often dousing their open wounds with disinfectant or removing maggots with tweezers.
‘People screamed in pain, but we couldn’t do much,’ Lee said. ‘It was a hell within a hell. The patients had been left there to die.’”
Recently, President Park Geun-hye was criticized for pushing through a law to re-write South Korean history text books that would paint her father in a more flattering light.