With the gist of the AP story affirmed—that US ground troops shot and killed South Korean civilians near Nogun-ri, July 26-29, 1950—the AP retained its Pulitzer. The reporters went on to develop the story into a book, The Bridge at No Gun Ri, introducing more actors and testimonies from the incident, and making severe point-by-point criticisms of the Pentagon’s investigation of Nogun-ri.
Survivors, their families, and advocate groups were not appeased by the show of cooperation and agreement between the two nations, or by the type of compensation offered up. On July 20, 2001, one of the survivors’ advocate groups staged a symbolic Korean War Crimes Tribunal in which the US was convicted, symbolically, of multiple counts of war crimes. In August 2001, lawyers were preparing a case against the US government on charges of violating the US Freedom of Information Act. The pivot-point for the continuing claims is compensation, and the net of grievances stretch beyond US involvement in Korea, to US involvement around the world.
While it’s questionable what good can come of these further measures, the evidence uncovered during the investigation shows not only that US soldiers killed civilians at Nogun-ri and elsewhere, in violation of numerous international treaties governing war—Geneva, Nuremburg, Hague, and UN human rights treaties—but that war crimes are more common and more close-to-home than people may have thought. It is not surprising information; even the disappearance of a few flight logs is not a major surprise. For the US, and other governments that enter conflicts in other countries, owning up to these crimes is a delicate operation, mixing public appeasement and foreign policy; for veterans, victims, and everyone else, they are a stark fact that some can neither face nor accept.
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HANLEY, Charles J., Sang-Hun CHOE, and Martha MENDOZA, The Bridge at No Gun Ri: A Hidden Nightmare from the Korean War (New York: Holt, 2001).
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LOBE, Jim, “Nogun-ri Statement Fails to Douse Flames of Resentment,” Asia Times (16 January 2001).
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“The Bridge at No Gun Ri," Korea Times. Book review.(10 Sept 2001).
MONTGOMERY, Alicia, “No Gun Ri: What They’re Saying,” Salon (1 Oct 1999).
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SON Key-young, “Korea, US Show Wide Gap in Assessment of Nogun-ri Case,” Korea Times (6 Dec 2000).
Author: Elisa Joy Holland.