[Documents menu] Documents menu

Korea, US Show Wide Gap in Assessment of Nogun-ri Case

By Son Key-young Staff Reporter, The Korea Times, 6 December 2000

Korea and the United States have shown great differences on what caused the killing of Korean refugees by U.S. troops during the Korean War and how to take follow-up measures, including compensation to the victims.

The two countries yesterday held a meeting at the War Memorial in central Seoul to discuss how to make a final announcement on the year-long probe into the massacre, which allegedly left hundreds of Korean civilians dead at a hamlet of Nogun-ri.

Kim Byoung-ho, assistant minister for public policy coordination, headed the Korean delegation, while the U.S. side was represented by Assistant Secretary of the Army Patrick Henry.

Timed with the meeting, hundreds of Koreans gathered near the War Memorial in a massive rally, urging the negotiators not to distort or manipulate the investigation results.

Yesterday's meeting was the first bilateral negotiation aimed at discussing how to wrap up the issue and work out follow-up measures.

Korean negotiators, citing the demands of Korean victims and their family members, called for appropriate U.S. actions, including an apology, the restoration of the victims' honor and, most of all, compensation to them.

However, the U.S. side contended that it was an accident, as the investigators failed to find any hard evidence on the allegations that U.S. soldiers were ordered to shoot refugees at Nogun-ri.

In addition, they noted that many testimonies by the witnesses lacked credibility because of their confusion over geographic knowledge regarding the site of the massacre and other reasons.

In contrast, a Korean victims' association has claimed that the U.S. troops killed their villagers intentionally and in an inhumane manner.

As they showed far-reaching differences, the two countries are expected to hold another round of negotiations in the United States late this month, in a last-ditch effort to find a negotiated solution to the thorny issue.

Already, the two sides entered into a stage of authoring a joint statement, with Washington transferring a draft, named a statement of mutual understanding, to Seoul.

The hot potato of these negotiations is whether the U.S. should make compensation to the Korean victims.

Despite consistent demands by the Korean victims, the U.S. side has turned a deaf ear to the plea, out of fear that any provision of compensation to Korean victims might touch off a rush of similar demands and lawsuits in the other parts of the world.

The incident took place in the turmoil of a hurried retreat right after North Korea seized the central city of Taejon on July 20, 1950. The war broke out on June 25.

The probe into the incident started in September last year, when the Associated Press, citing declassified documents at the U.S. military archives, reported that U.S. commanders ordered their troops to shoot civilians because North Korean commandos were believed to have hidden themselves in the stream of refugees.

Originally, Korea and the United States sought to announce the results of joint investigations in June, timed with the anniversary of the breakout of the 1950-53 war.

Officials here are concerned about the possible uproar from the Korean public, because the outcome of the investigation will apparently not meet their expectations.

At present, the two countries are seeking to issue a joint statement on the outcome of the probe in both Seoul and Washington, although they show discrepancies in their findings and their assessment.