중앙데일리

[EDITORIAL] Nogun-ri: Case Closed?

Jan 12,2001
After one year and three months of investigations by both Seoul and Washington to uncover the truth of what exactly happened at Nogun-ri, the case was closed yesterday, at least for now, as the two sides issued a report of their joint effort and U.S. President Bill Clinton made an official statement of regret over the loss of civilian lives in the shooting incident during the Korean War. The report is very significant in that it acknowledges American guilt by calling the case an incident in which many refugees were killed or wounded by withdrawing American soldiers. It is also noteworthy that Mr. Clinton expressed regret "on behalf of the United States of America" about an event that occurred in wartime half a century ago.

It is hard for us, who have pressed for a thorough ferreting out of the truth, to dispel the feeling that the case is being closed in too much of a rush. Even with directives, memos, and testimony by related persons indicating that there were orders to shoot and air strikes, the two sides have agreed to stop the investigation, saying that it had failed to turn up any conclusive evidence that orders to fire were given by American commanders. The Korean government insists that the claims of our side are broadly reflected in the report, providing a favorable basis for any civilian suits for compensation that may be filed in the future, but we cannot overlook the fact that the Korean claims are countered by opposing U.S. opinions in the report. Can we really expect an American court to take the Korean side in this? As we have seen in the recent publication of "The Tianmen Papers," historical truths eventually come to light. We cannot help wondering if it was a political decision to reach closure while Mr. Clinton is still in office instead of resolving to dig out all the facts no matter how long it might take.

In spite of our misgivings, we do think that by conducting a joint investigation of the Nogun-ri incident, Korea and the United States have set a positive precedent for resolving disputes between allied countries. The U.S. government made a sincere effort to be thorough, examining over a million documents and following up with more than 7,000 veterans of the war. Perhaps what we have learned through this cooperative investigation will in some way help us avoid the tragedy of war on this peninsula ever again.


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