U.S. To Pursue No Gun Ri Probe
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Four South Koreans still bearing the scars of old bullet wounds sat down with Pentagon officials on Friday and urged belated justice nearly 50 years after they said U.S. troops came to their hamlet and killed hundreds of civilian refugees early in the Korean War.
Senior Pentagon officials reassured the South Koreans that the Army will vigorously pursue the investigation ordered by President Clinton as ``a tribute to the shared sacrifices of the Korean and American people during the Korean War.″
``I came here to tell the truth about No Gun Ri,″ Yang Hae-sook, 61., whose left eye was blown out at the village, said before the Pentagon meeting. ``I want to tell how American soldiers came to our village and took so many children and women and killed almost all of them.″
The four survivors of No Gun Ri, a South Korean hamlet and site of the 1950 episode, relayed their accounts to Charles L. Cragin, a deputy undersecretary of defense, Assistant Army Secretary Patrick T. Henry and Army Inspector General Michael Ackerman.
After the meeting, the survivors said in a statement: ``No Gun Ri Holocaust is the massacre of innocent people, committed by the U.S. military forces who pursued only efficiency of their military operation, totally ignoring human rights.″
The Pentagon officials ``reiterated the U.S. pledge to continue to work closely with the (South Korean) government, and assured the survivors that the Department of Defense will vigorously pursue and publish the facts of what happened″ at No Gun Ri, said a Pentagon statement.
They also explained to the survivors how the review is being conducted.
``We feel good after today’s talks,″ said Chung Eun-yong, representative of the Korean survivors.
The South Koreans who testified at the Pentagon included Yang, Keum Cho-ja, 61, who says her bullet injuries ruined her marriage; and Chung Koo-hak, 57, whose nose was torn apart by an American bullet.
The Associated Press reported in September that a dozen 7th Cavalry veterans, corroborating the accounts of Korean villagers, said the regiment’s 2nd Battalion killed a large number of civilians at No Gun Ri in July 1950. Survivors say 400 were killed by American soldiers.
South Korea’s past military governments, cherishing close ties with Washington, had forced the survivors into silence. The later, democratically elected governments in Seoul knew about but never investigated the case. Washington had dismissed the claim since 1994, citing lack of evidence.
After the AP report, however, both Washington and Seoul started investigations. Pentagon officials have denied a cover-up.
Ackerman told a reporter Friday that Army investigators likely would begin interviewing the American soldiers involved in the incident next month. The focus so far has been on researching military records, he said.
The Korean survivors feared their campaign for official recognition by Washington might be seen as an attempt to discredit the sacrifices by American soldiers who fought alongside the South Korean troops during the war.
``Above all, we appreciate the sacrifices of U.S. veterans, the U.S. government and we would like to express our thanks to their families,″ said the Koreans’ statement Friday.
In a symbolic gesture, they paid homage to the Korean War Veterans Memorial on Thursday.
The Koreans flew to Washington from Cleveland, where they prayed together with three U.S. veterans in a church Tuesday.
The veterans pleaded for understanding. Some 7th Cavalry veterans say they were fired upon from the throng of refugees at No Gun Ri. Korean survivors strongly deny there were infiltrators in their group.