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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC Presses U.S. To Address Grievance Of No Gun Ri Massacre
NCC & South Korean Counterpart Assembled Dossier, Approached Pentagon in 1998

September 29, 1999, NEW YORK CITY — The U.S. government must give speedy, aggressive attention to the grievance of South Koreans against U.S. military personnel in the massacre of some 400 innocent Korean civilians at No Gun Ri (alternative spelling: Nokeun-ri) in July 1950, newly documented by the Associated Press, the (U.S.) National Council of Churches (NCC) declared today.

The NCC, together with its South Korean counterpart, the National Council of Churches in Korea, last December had asked the Pentagon's response to detailed testimony from Korean survivors and eyewitnesses to the massacre of mostly women, children and the elderly. In March, the U.S. Army replied that it had "found no information to substantiate the claim that U.S. Army soldiers perpetrated a massacre of South Korean civilians at Nokuen-ri."

Praising the Associated Press for bringing new evidence of the massacre to light in its report, released today, the NCC's General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, joined the NCCK in reiterating their demand that the "truth should be disclosed to the public and the families of the victims should be compensated adequately."

"Grievances filed away without any investigation should be reopened and those pending should be investigated post haste," she said. "Our country, committed to uphold human rights, can do no less. The South Korean victims and their relatives deserve justice.

"When justice is accorded for South Koreans, we will then have demonstrated our own humanity," she said. "Then and only then can we send a message around a world that has seen too much atrocity that no one, not even the military, can escape accountability."

At the same time, Dr. Campbell affirmed that "truth leads to reconciliation, as we've learned from our sisters and brothers in South Africa." And she hailed the courage of the U.S. servicemen who testified to their own participation in the massacre.

"While they share responsibility for these atrocities against Korean civilians, they also merit our pastoral concern and care. 'Going public' with such admissions carries a heavy price for themselves and their families, which must be acknowledged.

The (U.S.) National Council of Churches — the nation's leading ecumenical organization with 35 Protestant and Orthodox member bodies — got involved in pressing the Pentagon for answers on the "No Gun Ri Incident" at the request of its longstanding partner, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK).

Responding to an official request from survivors and bereaved family members, the NCCK's Committee for Justice and Human Rights had recorded survivors' testimonies as part of its own investigation of the incident, then forwarded the dossier to the NCC with a request "for your cooperation to resolve this issue."

NCC East Asia and the Pacific Office Director Victor W.C. Hsu wrote Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen on December 18, 1998, enclosing the NCCK-assembled dossier and asking the Pentagon's response to the allegations. "According to the NCCK," Mr. Hsu wrote, "the U.S. Army 'refuses to take responsibility for this massacre' because 'this incident happened during the war.'"

The investigation was put in the hands of John P. McLaurin, III, Deputy General Secretary (Military Personnel Management and Equal Opportunity Policy), who on March 22, 1999, wrote Mr. Hsu to report, "The Army's center of Military History reviewed the enclosures to the packet created by the National Council of Churches in Korea and also available U.S. Army records for the Korean War for July 1950 located in the National Archives and Records Administration. Their review found no information to substantiate the claim that U.S. Army soldiers perpetrated a massacre of South Korean civilians at Nokuen-ri."

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