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DATE=10/28/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=KOREA MASSACRE - SURVIVORS NUMBER=5-44638 BYLINE=ALISHA RYU DATELINE=NOGUN-RI, SOUTH KOREA CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: This is a companion piece to 5- 44637, which moved on this wire earlier /// INTRO: As the United States and South Korea begin investigating allegations that U-S soldiers massacred Korean civilians during the early weeks of the Korean War almost 50 years ago, survivors are speaking out about their own experiences. V-O-A's Alisha Ryu recently traveled to the village of Nogun-ri, 160- kilometers southeast of Seoul, where the atrocities are said to have occurred. Text: Survivors of the alleged massacre at Nogun-ri say their stories may be disturbing, but they insist they are the truth. /// Sound of train passing by - Establish and Fade /// Almost a dozen people gathered recently beneath the now-famous twin-arched railroad bridge. It is here that American soldiers are accused of gunning down as many as 300 civilians over a three-day period (July 26-29) in July of 1950. /// Sound of a train whistle - Establish and Fade /// A train passes overhead as 65-year-old Lee Byung-hae, points to a spot under the bridge. He says his mother died there on the night of July 26th. There were no trains that night, he says, only the cries of women and children amid the gunfire. /// Lee Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// He says he heard loud noises and looked up to see his mother's body crumple to the ground. He soon realized many others around him were dead as well. Ten-year-old Chung Koo-ho, his mother and younger brother were crouched under the other end of the bridge that night, taking cover beneath dead bodies as the shooting continued. Mr. Chung, now 60, says they survived the first night of killing. But the next day, gunfire rang out again. /// Chung Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// He says he felt something sharp hit his arm and saw blood trickling from his elbow. He remembers saying, "Mom, I've been shot." He then saw that she was dead, hit four times in the chest. The survivors' accounts of the shooting at Nogun-ri are similar to the recollections of former U-S Army machine-gunner Edward Daily. In recent interviews, the veteran said he had orders to shoot the refugees because some of them were suspected of being North Korean infiltrators disguised as civilians. But Mr. Daily says he did not begin shooting until he saw gunfire coming from among the refugees. Sixty- seven-year-old Chung Koo-hun rejects that claim, saying none of the refugees under the bridge could have had a weapon. /// First Chung Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// Mr. Chung says U-S soldiers had thoroughly searched the refugees before they reached the bridge, confiscating even small kitchen knives. He says the refugees were innocent victims who trusted the Americans to lead them out of danger. Instead, they died because the Americans did not trust them. Korean survivors say there is more to the story than what has been reported by American media. They claim U-S atrocities against the refugees actually began the day before the alleged bridge massacre. Chung Koo-hun, who was 17 years old at the time, says U-S troops on July 25th forced people to evacuate their villages 14 kilometers away from the bridge. The U-S Army was retreating south as North Korea's communists advanced deep into the peninsula and heavy fighting had broken out in the area. Mr. Chung says the U-S soldiers began killing civilians during the two-kilometer march. /// Second Chung Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// Mr. Chung says the refugees had been walking above a steep embankment parallel to the railroad tracks. He says U-S soldiers suddenly ordered them to run down to the bottom of the embankment. When some began lagging behind, Mr. Chung says an American soldier next to him shot and killed three young children as a warning to others of what the penalty would be for moving too slowly. Mr. Chung claims U-S troops committed more atrocities the following day before the refugees reached the bridge. As the refugees walked on, he says American soldiers stopped them and searched their belongings. Then, Mr. Chung says the U-S soldiers withdrew and minutes later American planes swooped in and began dropping bombs and firing on the refugees. /// Third Chung Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// Mr. Chung says he remembers seeing people hit by bullets and shrapnel. He says when the air strikes stopped, U-S troops reappeared and began another search. He says he vividly remembers seeing at least two of the soldiers walking among the wounded and shooting them at point-blank range. Kum Cho-ja says she, too, remembers the aerial attack. She says she and many others sought shelter in a narrow culvert near the bridge. Ms. Kum says when they saw U-S troops approaching, they thought the soldiers were coming to rescue them. /// Kum Act in Korean - Establish and Fade /// Instead, she says the soldiers ordered them to come out and then opened fire. She says a bullet hit her in the abdomen as she tried to leap over the dead bodies in front of her. The Americans then directed the remaining refugees to the bridge underpass. Some of the dozen American Korean War veterans who have spoken out about Nogun-ri have admitted that U-S planes strafed the area where the refugees had stopped. They say the air strikes were supposed to prevent all Koreans, North and South, from crossing their front lines. But the U-S veterans disagree sharply on what happened under the railroad bridge after the refugees took shelter there. Some, like Mr. Daily, say they had orders to shoot. Some say there were no such orders. Mr. Daily says there was hostile fire. Others say there was not. One U-S veteran says he found disguised North Korean soldiers among the dead. But the others say they found none. Korean survivors claim U-S troops killed at least 300 people. U-S veterans say the death toll was much lower. And so far, none of the American veterans has talked about atrocities being committed before the alleged attack under the railroad bridge. Professor Ra (pronounced Na) Jong-yil at Kyung Hee University in Seoul says that as a boy, he saw many acts of violence during the Korean War. After nearly a half a century, he says he is not surprised that there are differing accounts of what happened at Nogun-ri. /// Ra Act /// In any situation of violence, I think these things can happen. To my experiences, battle scenes were complete chaos. Nobody seemed to have a grasp of what was happening around them. That does not nullify the criminal nature of what was done, but we can probably go so far as to say that both were victims, the civilians and the soldiers. /// End Act /// Mr. Ra says the important task now is to get to the truth quickly and fairly. He notes that many Koreans received medical treatment and other help from American troops during the war. And about 37-thousand U-S soldiers are still stationed here, helping defend South Korea against another possible attack from the North. Mr. Ra urges the South Korean public to reserve judgment about Nogun-ri until all the facts are uncovered. But survivors in Nogun-ri say they are telling the truth. They say the Unites States should acknowledge what its soldiers did and apologize. Only then, they say, can the matter be put to rest. (Signed) NEB/AR/JP 28-Oct-1999 12:19 PM EDT (28-Oct-1999 1619 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .