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SEOSAN, South Korea – Nearly 2,000 people including ex-gangsters, ex-convicts, former prostitutes and orphans were once held in a South Korean village and forced to work without pay for years, then largely forgotten. The few who remain now seek an investigation and compensation.
They were victims of social engineering orchestrated in the 1960s by dictator Park Chung-hee, late father of just-ousted President Park Geun-hye. His 18-year rule was marked by both a dramatic economic rise and enormous human rights abuses.
He cleared city streets of so-called vagrants and put them to work on land and road projects as free labor to help rebuild the country after the 1950-53 Korean War.
Former inmates at Seosan say they received so little to eat that they caught and ate frogs, snakes and rats.