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Korean massacre survivors denounce US report

The Straits Times, 13 January 2001

Americans need to be frank about past wrongdoings, say survivors of the killing of refugees by US soldiers at No Gun Ri during the Korean War

SEOUL - Survivors of the killing of refugees by American soldiers at No Gun Ri denounced angrily as a whitewash the US Army's report that there was no evidence that the soldiers were ordered to kill.

'It's full of excuses,' said Mrs Park Hee Sook, a 66-year-old woman who said she witnessed the incident at the South Korean hamlet early in the Korean War.

'The Americans need to be more frank about their past wrongdoings.'

Survivors had been pressing for an explicit apology for what happened at No Gun Ri as well as compensation for their suffering, but got neither.

US President Bill Clinton expressed regret that Korean civilians lost their lives at No Gun Ri, but stopped short of a formal apology.

He said a memorial would be built to honour 'these and all other innocent Korean civilians' killed during the 1950-53 war and said the US would establish a scholarship fund in their memory.

'We don't need the scholarship and monument,' said 62-year-old Chun Choon Ja.

'We want a more sincere apology, not a vague statement of regret, from the US government.

'I wish I could see President Clinton right now and ask him what he is talking about and tell him that he doesn't know what we went through at No Gun Ri,' Mr Chun said.

'Any final report that does not deal with the responsibility of commanders has a serious defect,' Mr Chung Koo Do, spokesman for the survivors' group, said.

'It can't be construed as anything other than a Pentagon attempt to whitewash the massacre.'

About 150 protesters shouted slogans in support of the survivors' cause at a weekly anti-US rally yesterday in front of the US military's main compound in Seoul.

'Washington's attitude towards the No Gun Ri massacre is another barbarity that can never be forgiven,' said a leaflet distributed by protesters.

In its report, the US Army cited 'conflicting statements and misunderstandings' about whether orders were given, but its investigators concluded that no oral or written orders were given to 'shoot and kill' South Korean civilians at that time.

'We fully understand the chaotic circumstance of the war and the difficulties that the GIs faced, but the US announcement shows that the American government does not want to dig up all the truth of No Gun Ri,' said 60-year-old Chung Koo Hak.