The Nogun-ri Controversy

 
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In September of 1999, an Associated Press story about an alleged mass murder of South Korean civilians that purportedly took place in late July of 1950 at Nogun-ri, Korea, made headlines across the nation and around the world. The authors of the story were Sang-hun Choe (age 36), Charles J. Hanley (age 52), and Martha Mendoza (age 33). The authors [their biographies listed below the Associated Press story] received a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for this story. They also published a book entitled, The Bridge at Nogun-ri: A Hidden Nightmare from the Korean War. Following the release of the Associated Press story, the United States and South Korean governments began investigations of their own into the allegations.

The story caught the attention of the general public, and letters from outraged American citizens condemning the incident appeared in Letters to the Editor columns in newspapers around the nation. The AP story was released just as the United States and South Korean governments were planning and staging commemorative events to honor Korean War veterans and mark the 50th anniversary of the start of hostilities in Korea. Many Korean War veterans, who had already long felt that their contributions to world peace were never fully or even partially recognized or appreciated by the public in general, were angry and dismayed over the negative publicity generated by the AP story.

Some of the "facts" in the Pulitzer Prize-winning story were based on an interview with a veteran named Edward Lee Daily of Clarksville, Tennessee. Not long after the AP story was released, it was discovered that Daily had lied about his presence at Nogun-ri. Hearsay testimony by other sources for the story could not be confirmed because the officers in question had long since died-either in combat in Korea, or in subsequent years. In addition, some of the eyewitnesses who alleged that the mass murder took place were young children in 1950, relying now as adults on their childhood memories. A number of these witnesses are seeking financial compensation from the United States government.

This page of The Korean War Educator is devoted to sharing written materials about the Nogun-ri incident (and related issues) with the visitors to this website. The Nogun-ri Controversy page includes one editorial that was written by Lynnita Sommer (Brown) shortly after the story went to press. Other than Lynnita's editorial, none of the materials found on this page are the product or original works of anyone associated with The Korean War Educator Foundation. Whenever possible, credit is given to the author of the written material, or the publication in which it was found.

Other materials associated with the Nogun-ri controversy that are not shown here to date may be submitted to The Korean War Educator by sending them to Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton Street, Tuscola, IL 61953. E-mail lynnita@koreanwar-educator.org. Materials stating opinions on both sides of the controversy will be accepted, but nothing that is inordinately disrespectful to America's Korean War veterans will appear on The Korean War Educator website.

Another source for information about the Nogun-ri controversy is The Korean War Educator's Best on the Net Nogun-ri Websites page.


Ex-GI's tell of killing refugees" (an Associated Press story)

The Biographies of the Authors of the Original Nogun-ri Associated Press Story
  • Sang-Hun Choe
    Since joining the AP bureau in Seoul in 1994, Choe has covered stories ranging from natural disasters and North-South Korean confrontations to the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. A 36-year-old native of Uljoo, in southern South Korea, he is a graduate of Seoul's Hankuk University and a veteran of the South Korean army. Before the AP, Choe was a political reporter for the English-language Korea Herald. He has been honored with a special award from the Journalists Association of Korea for his work on Nogun-ri.
     
  • Charles J. Hanley
    Hanley, 52, has been a roving correspondent assigned to AP's International Desk in New York for most of the past two decades, reporting from more than 70 countries. He was designated an AP special correspondent in 1992. A Brooklyn native and graduate of St. Bonaventure University, he joined the AP in 1968 in Albany, N.Y., where he later became a political correspondent and then bureau news editor. He was AP assistant managing editor and deputy managing editor in 1987-92. Hanley served as a U.S. Army journalist in South Carolina and Vietnam in 1969-70.
     
  • Martha Mendoza
    Mendoza, 33, won award for her AP investigative reporting on flaws in the federal government's wild horses program and as part of a team that examined illegal child labor nationwide. Born in Los Angeles, she is a journalism and education graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz. She worked for the Madera Tribune, the Bay City News service and the Santa Cruz County Sentinel, all in California, before joining the AP in 1995 in Albuquerque, N.M. In 1997-98 she was a national writer with the AP Special Assignment Team in New York. She is currently AP's San Jose, Calif., correspondent.

 

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