Islanders want justice for Korean War attack

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Islanders want justice for Korean War attack

Residents on Wolmi Island, Incheon, yesterday filed a compensation lawsuit against the central and Incheon city governments as well as the United Nations and the U.S. Army for losses they suffered in 1950 when U.S-led forces bombarded the island as part of the Incheon landing that proved to be a turning point in the Korean War.

Families from 45 households on each requesting 3 million won ($2,659) in compensation.

“It’s been three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigated the Wolmi Island’s bombardment,” their lawsuit said. “But there has been no resolution about this matter, leading us to file this lawsuit.

“For the success of the Incheon landing operation, we were evicted from our hometown by the mass bombardment of the island. Our losses from this incident should be compensated,” it reads.

On Sept. 15, 1950, the U.N. forces, consisting mainly of U.S. marines, launched the Incheon landing operation beginning with a preliminary bombardment of the island.

The U.S. marines, under the direction of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, captured the island in two hours from North Korean troops based there.

According to the state-run commission investigation in 2008, Wolmi was subject to a “softening up” operation for several days prior to the landing. On Sept. 10, 1950, U.S. aircraft dropped 95 napalm bombs on the eastern part of the island to destroy entrenched defense facilities of the North’s army, which destroyed civilian homes as well. Aircraft also continued to strafe the island until the morning of Sept. 13.

After the operation was completed, the U.S. Army took over the island as a military base, restricting entry to civilians.

After the war ended in 1953, the U.S. Army stayed on the island until 1971 and the South Korean Navy took over the island for its own use until 2001.

The Incheon city government, which purchased the island from the Korean Navy in 2001, developed the island into a tourist spot, building the Wolmi Amusement Park, but it didn’t return the land to the previous residents due to an absence of proper documents.

The islanders have held a series of rallies since 2004, asking for compensation for their lost land and homes. Many are now living in substandard housing near the island, making their living by begging or day labor.

After the investigation in 2008, the commission said the military operation, which didn’t take any measures to prevent civilian casualties, violated the International Humanitarian Law and advised the South Korean and U.S. governments to take proper steps to compensate victims.

According to the Incheon city council, the number of identified civilian casualties is 10, although the number of missing could be about 100. The Incheon city government said it will soon enact a law to compensate the victims.

By Kim Hee-jin []

Related Korean Article[연합]

한국전쟁 기간 발생한 '월미도 미군 폭격 사건'의 피해주민들이 정부와 인천시 등을 상대로 손해배상 청구소송을 제기했다.

1일 월미도원주민귀향대책위원회에 따르면 월미도 사건 피해주민 45가구는 최근 정부, 인천시, 미국정부, 유엔을 상대로 가구당 300만원씩 배상할 것을 요구하는 소송을 인천지방법원에 냈다.

이들은 소장에서 "진실.화해를 위한 과거사정리위원회의 월미도 사건 진실 규명 이후 3년이 다 된 현재까지 아무런 해결이 되지 않아 소송을 청구하게 됐다"라고 밝혔다.

이어 "인천상륙작전의 성공을 위해 월미도에 가해진 무차별 폭격으로 고향과 삶의 터전에서 강제로 쫓겨났으며 이와 관련된 손해는 반드시 배상돼야 한다"라고 주장했다.

진실화해위는 지난 2008년 이 사건에 대해 인천상륙작전을 위해 미군 항공기들이 월미도 내에서 인민군의 방위시설을 숨겨주는 은폐물을 없애면서 민간인 거주지까지 폭격한 사실을 규명했다.

폭격은 1950년 9월10일 미군 항공모함에서 출격한 항공기들이 95개의 네이팜탄을 월미도 동쪽지역에 투하하고 기총소사를 하는 방식으로 9월13일 아침까지 계속됐다.

진실화해위는 미군이 민간인 희생을 줄이기 위한 최소한의 조치가 없이 월미도 전체를 무차별 집중폭격한 것은 국제인도법 등에 위반된 작전이라며, 한국과 미국 정부가 협의해 희생자와 쫓겨난 피해주민들에 대해 적절한 조치를 취하도록 권고했다.

인천시의회는 이 사건과 관련, 신원이 확인된 희생자가 10명이고 실종자와 신원을 확인할 수 없는 사람을 포함하면 실제 희생자가 100여명에 이를 것으로 추산하고 있다.

인천시는 월미도 사건 피해주민에게 보상할 수 있는 관련 법 규정이 없는 점을 감안, 지역 출신 국회의원들을 대상으로 특별법 제정을 건의할 방침이다.
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