President Kim calls for probe into death reports

By Sang-hun Choe

The Associated Press



SEOUL, South KoreaSouth Korea’s president on Saturday called for a join US-South Korea probe into allegations that American forces gunned down several hundred refugees at the start of the Korean War. 

    "We must be aggressive in unveiling the truth," President Kim Dae-jung was quoted as telling a meeting of senior presidential aides.  "Investigating together with the United States will be more efficient." 

    On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported accounts by American veterans and South Korean villagers who said they saw U.S. soldiers kill up to 400 civilians in Nogun-ri, South Korea, in 1950 during the early days of the Korean War. 

    The AP also found once-classified documents showing that U.S. commanders ordered their troops to shoot civilians as a defense against disguised enemy soldiers. 

    Communist North Korean news media carried the key points of the AP report on Saturday according to the North’s official foreign news outlet, KCNA.  KCNA offered no government comments, but described Nogun-ri as a "massacre" and "genocide" by the "U.S. imperialist aggression forces."  North Korea claims the 1950-53 Korean War was started by the United States—a claim rejected by most historians. 

    In South Korea, Kim said his government will give special priority to investigating the AP report, said his chief spokesman, Park June-young.  Kim also indicated that the government will help compensate the victims.  "The incident happened 50 years ago, but if such innocent civilians were indeed killed, the truth must be known and the souls of the dead and the bereaved families must be consoled," Kim said. 

    Officials at both the foreign and defense ministries said they began contacting U.S. officials for possible cooperation in the investigation.  Aging South Koreans who said they survived the Nogun-ri killings issued a statement demanding they be represented in any joint-investigation team organized by the two countries. 

    They also said they would not allow any anti-American elements in their campaign for the truth behind Nogun-ri, because they recognize the friendly relations between Washington and Seoul and the important security role the United States plays in the divided Korean peninsula.