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DATE=10/28/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=KOREA MASSACRE - INVESTIGATION NUMBER=5-44637 BYLINE=ALISHA RYU DATELINE=SEOUL CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: A companion piece, including interviews with Americans and Koreans who were present during the Nogun-ri incident, will move on this wire shortly /// INTRO: A team of U-S experts is in South Korea to begin investigating allegations that American soldiers massacred civilians during the Korean War almost 50 years ago. The U-S team is working with a group of experts from South Korea, and the two sides will be coordinating procedures for their joint investigation. V-O-A's Alisha Ryu reports from Seoul that the alleged massacre at the village of Nogun-ri 160-kilometers southeast of the capital is already fueling anti- American sentiment in South Korea. Text: Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, Hong Soon- young says the South Korean government is confident the investigative teams will get to the truth surrounding what is being called, the Nogun-ri massacre. Survivors in the village claim that in late July of 1950, retreating U-S soldiers gunned down about three hundred unarmed South Koreans because some of the refugees were thought to be North Koreans in disguise. Several veterans in the United States have also said they participated in or witnessed the shootings that took place beneath a railroad bridge near Nogun-ri. In an interview with V-O-A, Mr. Hong said both countries will disclose all the information they can gather about the incident, no matter how embarrassing or painful the facts might be. /// First Hong Act /// We are both committed to democratic values, human rights and (giving) full justice to any grievance from any victim. It is being done in the name of truth, in the spirit of trust. /// End Act /// But trusting the government to be completely truthful and fair may not easy for many South Koreans. Memories of more than three decades of dictatorial rule after the Korean War are still fresh. Previous governments headed by former military leaders Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, and Roh (pronounced No) Tae- woo often persecuted and jailed their critics. And it was unlawful for citizens to question matters of national security. Nogun-ri survivor Yang (pronounced Yahng) Hae-chang, says the repressive atmosphere in Korea during those years made it impossible for survivors to talk openly about what happened in their village. /// Yang Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// He says the United States was South Korea's closest ally after the war and because of that alliance, Koreans were discouraged from criticizing the United States. Mr. Yang says during the late 1960's and `70s, he was taken into police custody three times and severely punished for speaking out about Nogun-ri. The years of censorship took its toll, breeding public resentment toward the United States. The continuing U-S military presence and political influence on the peninsula added to that ill will among many South Koreans. The Nogun-ri case is the latest issue to ignite that lingering resentment. The current government of President Kim Dae-jung has been sharply criticized for not showing enough sympathy toward the Nogun-ri survivors. Some villagers in Nogun-ri say they suspect the government might be trying to cover up evidence of a massacre. They say workers from the National Railroad Administration recently filled in the bullet holes in the concrete foundations of the railroad bridge. The railroad says it was done as part of routine maintenance, but villagers say the concrete had never been repaired in all the years since the Korean War. In Seoul, an elderly man who would only identify himself as Mr. Park says he doubts the latest investigations will uncover the whole truth about the alleged massacre. /// Park Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// Is it not obvious, he asks. The minute the United States finds out its boys did something, he says, it will ask us Koreans to keep quiet and we will, like we have always done. U-S and South Korean officials worry that such sentiments could endanger the friendship and security alliance between the two countries. As part of that alliance, about 37-thousand American soldiers are stationed in South Korea, mainly along the tense border with North Korea. Political scientist Lee Jung-hoon at Yonsei University says those who oppose the U-S-Korea alliance could exploit the atrocity allegations to further their anti-American agenda. /// Lee Act /// Even if the findings are true, I think Korean- American relations is at a mature point where we can withstand this and other issues that will come up time and again. However, maybe some radical students within South Korea can take advantage of the situation and really grasp onto the issue. /// End Act /// Foreign Minister Hong agrees the threat of trouble exists. /// Second Hong Act /// I do not deny there is room for exploitation by certain elements. But we know that U-S soldiers came here to save Korea from the aggressions of North Korean armed forces, so you have to keep that in mind. /// End Act /// Many South Koreans say they are grateful to the United States for intervening in the Korean War. They say they can even understand how mistakes could have been made in the midst of battlefield chaos and confusion. But college student Kim Dong-min says he does not believe Nogun-ri was an isolated incident. /// Kim Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// He says he has heard about American soldiers committing atrocities elsewhere in Korea during the war. If that is the case, he says, the United States government should not offer just monetary compensation to victims but a sincere apology to the nation as well. Other college students surveyed recently say they will be watching closely to see how both governments handle the Nogun-ri investigations. They say that if it seems as if either government is shading the truth or holding back information, public distrust will grow and political pressure will increase against maintaining a strong U-S-Korea alliance.(Signed) NEB/AR/JP 28-Oct-1999 12:17 PM EDT (28-Oct-1999 1617 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .