Koreans press for probe into other alleged attacks on civilians

By Sang-Hun Choe, The Associated Press



SEOUL, South Korea – With the completion of a probe into the killing of refugees by U.S. troops at the hamlet of Nogun-ri, Koreans are pressing for an investigation into other alleged attacks on civilians by American forces in the early day of the Korean War. 

    Sixty-one complaints have been filed with the Korean Defense Ministry in the past 16 months by groups of people who say they survived or witnessed attacks by U.S. forces.  Most said the attacks were from the air, but some said they were hit by ground troops and, in one case, the U.S. Navy.  The attacks occurred in the upheaval during the war’s first seven months when U.S. forces were alternately advancing and retreating in combat against North Korean communist troops. 

    Survivors said they were discussing forming a coalition to force a new investigation. 

    Both Washington and Seoul had said they would decide whether to look into other cases only after completing the Nogun-ri investigations.  In a joint statement Friday, the two sides acknowledged a mass killing occurred at Nogun-ri in late July 1950, but said there was no evidence that U.S. soldiers were ordered to kill. 

    The investigations began after the Associated Press reported in September 1999 that GIs killed a large number of refugees at the South Korean hamlet; the report was based on dozens of U.S. and South Korean witnesses and documents from archives. 

    In announcing their findings Thursday, both governments strongly indicated they would not open further investigations.  In Seoul, Ahn Byong-woo, a chief policy coordinator at the prime minister’s office, said it was ‘realistically very difficult" to launch another probe.  Some Koreans immediately objected. 

    "What I heard on TV was deeply depressing," said Hong Won-ki, 63, who says he lost his parents in a U.S. air attack in January 1951.  "What more does the government need to open an investigation when its citizens say that a large number of people were killed unjustly."