Sun Journal, Lewiston, ME, October 5, 1999



SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Monday criticized the alleged mass killing of civilian refugees by U.S. soldiers in the early days of the Korean War and demanded that Washington apologize. 

    It was the first official reaction from the communist sate on last week’s news report on the alleged killings in Nogun-ri village in July 1950.  "The truth of history cannot be distorted and covered," said Pyongyang’s Rodong Sinmun, the main newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.  It said the U.S. forces committed massacres not only in Nogun-ri, but also in other areas during the 1950-53 war. 

    Historians say North Korean troops committed far more atrocities, summarily executing U.S. prisoners of war and slaughtering large numbers of South Korean civilians. 

    In its commentary, Rodong criticized the U.S. and South Korean governments for dismissing repeated requests for an investigation by South Koreans who say they survived the Nogun-ri killings. 

    Last week, The Associated Press reported accounts by American veterans and South Korean villagers who said they saw U.S. soldiers kill up to 400 civilians under a railroad bridge at Nogun-ri, South Korea.  The news agency also found once-classified documents showing that U.S. commanders ordered their troops to shoot civilians as a defense against disguised enemy soldiers. 

   After the AP report, the U.S. and South Korean governments promised thorough investigations into the Nogun-ri killings.  "The U.S. imperialists should clearly see the situation and make an official apology for their murderous crimes against the South Korean people," Rodong said.  North Korea also repeated its demand that Washington withdraw 37,000 U.S. troops from South Korea. 

    North Korea says the U.S. military presence raises tension on the divided Korean peninsula.  The United States says the U.S. troops are in South Korea to deter threats from the communist north.  The two Koreas are still technically at war because no peace treaty was signed at the end of the Korean War.  Their border is the world’s most heavily armed. 

    Meanwhile, officials from Seoul’s main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, conducted a preliminary field investigation Monday, interviewing Nogun-ri survivors and visiting the bridge.  It marked the first time any South Korean government officials questioned the Nogun-ri survivors. 

    Nogun-ri remained a hot issue in the National Assembly, where legislators criticized the government for dismissing earlier survivors’ claims.  The survivors have said they do not want communist support in their campaign to win compensation and an apology from Washington.