Today on Democracy Now! we are going to continue our look at an explosive story that has gotten almost no attention in this country. Three weeks ago, on May 8 a U.S. Air Force A-10 warthog bomber dropped six 500 pound bombs on the village of Maehyang-ri in South Korea. Villagers there claim that seven people were injured and some 170 houses damaged by the bombs. [includes rush transcript]
Military officials say the A-10 was experiencing engine trouble and dropped the bombs as an emergency measure to reduce its weight. The A-10 is the plane which U.S. forces used to fire off tens of thousands of rounds of Depleted Uranium bullets in Iraq during the Gulf War and some 31,000 in Kosovo. The U.S. military denies it is using depleted uranium in Korea, but admitted that it is keeping it in storage for use in the event of war.
Today, we are going to turn to another story from Korea that has gotten no coverage here in this country. And that is the story of massacres committed in Korea by U.S. forces and forces under U.S. command during the Korean War.
- Brian Willson, a former Lieutenant in Vietnam during the war. He is now a peace activist and has been to South Korea several times over the past few years. He was there right after this recent bombing of the Maehyang-ri village took place. For more information call Pan Korean Special Committee to Investigate Civilian Massacres During The Korean War: 202.297.3562.
- Rev. Kiyul Chung, a Korean American Methodist minister, originally from South Korea. He currently represents the Congress for Korean Reunification. He also was in South Korea shortly after the bombing of the Maehyang-ri village.
- Ahn Sangbo, survivor of 1950 massacre in Kung Sang Province, South Korea.
AMY GOODMAN: Today on the program we’re going to continue our look at an explosive story that has gotten almost no attention in this country, that we broke on Democracy Now! yesterday. Three weeks ago, on May 8, a US Air Force A-10 warthog bomber dropped six 500-pound bombs on the village of Maehyang-ri in South Korea. Villagers there claim seven people were injured, some 170 houses damaged by the bombs.
Military officials say the A-10 was experiencing engine trouble and dropped the bombs as an emergency measure to reduce its weight. The A-10 is the plane which the US forces used to fire off tens of thousands of rounds of depleted uranium bullets in Iraq during the Gulf War and some 31,000 rounds the military has admitted to in Kosovo. Well, the Pentagon denies it is using depleted uranium in Korea, but has admitted that it’s keeping it in storage for use there in the event of war.
Today, we’re going to turn to another story from Korea that has almost gotten no coverage in this country. And that is the story of massacres committed in Korea by US forces and forces under US command during the Korean War.
A story that has gotten a lot of attention is Nogun-ri. In fact, the Associated Press, AP, has just won a Pulitzer Prize for telling that story and getting in touch with the veterans who say they were involved, US veterans, with shooting civilians under a bridge at Nogun-ri during the Korean War. There have been questions raised about the story, a big front-page piece in the New York Times yesterday, because one of the US veterans who said he was there, Ed Daily, appears not to have been there, although the AP stands by the story and says that they have a number of other sources and US veterans who say they were there and that the evidence is there for the Nogun-ri massacre.
But as our guests that we had on yesterday and will continue with today say, this was just one of many massacres. Reverend Kiyul Chung is with us, a Korean American Methodist minister, originally from South Korea; and also Brian Wilson, former lieutenant in Vietnam during the war, now a peace activist, has been to South Korea several times over the past few years and just returned there with the Reverend, where he went to the village of Maehyang-ri.
Brian Wilson, you tried to meet with the embassy, just following up on yesterday’s story about the recent bombing.
BRIAN WILSON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What did they say, the US embassy?
BRIAN WILSON: Well, we tried to talk to the embassy, and when we got to the embassy entrance, we were surrounded by a hundred Korean riot police who said that they were under orders from the embassy not to let us in the embassy, which we did not believe. It seemed too preposterous. We wanted to discuss with the embassy not just the incident at Maehyang-ri, but the massacre sites that we had visited, as well as the general presence of US troops, which was increasingly an obstacle to any plan for unification.
Well, after being held outside the embassy for about forty-five minutes, we called back on the cell phone that we had with us and talked with David Straub, who was the political officer we were supposed to visit, and he in fact said on the phone that he had ordered the police to detain us outside, because we had misrepresented ourselves. He didn’t realize we were the people that had kind of talked about the depleted uranium and also had been to these massacre sites. And we had not told him that specifically in advance. We did tell him we wanted to talk about a number or issues relating to the US. And we then realized that the Korean police were following the orders of the US embassy, and we were then dragged off by about forty plainclothes people, who later were identified as with the KCIA.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the Korean CIA.
BRIAN WILSON: That’s as far as we got with the embassy.
AMY GOODMAN: Brian Wilson, when you talk about these massacre sites, as I just described the whole Nogun-ri case, the questions about it, but the amount of attention it has gotten, what level of — what number of massacres are we talking about during the Korean War?
BRIAN WILSON: Well, as of this moment, our friends in South Korea that we’re working with have identified at least twenty-three sites committed by US both ground forces and air forces of civilians, and at least thirty-four sites where South Korean forces under US command committed massacres. So we think there’s — it’s at least in the fifties at this point.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Kiyul Chung, can you introduce for us the guests we are going to be joined by now, as we go to South Korea, a massacre survivor.
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: We’ve arranged for Mr. Ahn Sangbo, from South Korea. He is in Kyongsang South Province. He was one of the survivors from the bombings and massacres that took place in July and August 1950. He’s on the line on the other side of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahn Sangbo, can you tell us what happened to you in 1950? He’s being translated by Shun Lee.
AHN SANGBO: [translated] My name is Ahn Sangbo. I live in Hanan, Kyongsang Province. In 1950, around August 20th, the US military — I directly witnessed United States military committing massacres against Korean people in my village. Before that, I had fled my village for a little while from the war, and I was on my way back returning to my village. On my way back, I was with two other people; there were three of us. We were approached by US soldiers, and one of us was shot by military gunfire. When we returned to the village, people in the village were shocked to see us. They said people have come back from the dead.
That day, I saw about nine to twelve US fighter planes. There were a large group of Koreans, including many students from the local high school. The US military, they could distinguish who were civilians and who were Korean soldiers. But regardless, they attacked. There were about nine to twelve US fighter planes; they attacked. I saw families being burned by fire. I directly witnessed people falling to the ground. My mother also, she was injured during the massacre.
Right now, the situation — 1950 was a time when all Korean people thought, "Finally we are liberated as a nation." "At last, we are free," I thought. But the nation that is supposed to be our ally nation, the United States, came to our country, divided our country into two, and started a war that is so atrocious. How could they be our ally?
AMY GOODMAN: Let me thank Ahn Sangbo. Yes, Reverend Kiyul Chung, well, I want to thank Ahn Sangbo for joining us. It’s quite remarkable on the simple technology of a telephone to connect to the other side of the world. Can you tell us where Kyongsang Province is, where Ahn Sangbo is speaking to us from in South Korea?
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: Northern west, south city. The whole province is in South Korea, where in the beginning of the war in 1950, July and August, the US military and South Korean army were retreating to that end of the tip of the South Korean land, where all these massacres took place. Mr. Ahn was just witnessing about a case in his village, including the napalm bomb was dropped on the people who were hiding — were trying to flee from the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, on, is it June 13th, there will be a summit between North and South Korea?
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: What does this have to do with the massacres of 1950?
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: I believe that the South Korean president will not have any freedom to bring about these issues relating to US military massacres that took place in 1950. On the question of reunification, he may say just some words, but on the question of military, particularly US military in South Korea, the South Korean president has no say whatsoever.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: Because the South Korean president has no operational command over not only US military in South Korea, but also Korean army, Korean military. Its own army is not under the Korean President, but under US general, is commander in South Korea.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s under the Status of Forces Agreement, the SOFA that exists?
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: Brian Wilson, why, while you were a former lieutenant in Vietnam and went on to be a captain, why have you focused on Korea now?
BRIAN WILSON: Well, Korea is just one of my focus, foci, but Korea is such a forgotten, unknown war, and the US had such a substantial role in — before the war, in really repressing the democratic movement that began developing after the Japanese surrendered. Right up until today, Korea basically has not been a sovereign nation since 1945 when they thought they were finally free. And so, as I have studied US involvement around the world, this is one of the most egregious interventions in the life of another country, and it has lasted now fifty-five years. And so, this is the reason for it.
AMY GOODMAN: How large is the US presence there now?
BRIAN WILSON: Well, there’s 37,000 troops and ninety-six different military installations.
AMY GOODMAN: So there’s a huge presence. If Korea were to reunify, the US wouldn’t be needed anymore. Is that right?
BRIAN WILSON: That’s correct. And even the House Republican Policy Committee is worried about this summit, because they’ve been quoted as saying that they’re worried that North Korea is going to pretend to have common ground with South Korea that would break the alliance between the United States and South Korea.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that’s why no attention is being brought to, well, going back to '50, the massacres, but also, right now with the bombing of the Koon-Ri Range, the bombing of Maehyang-ri village by a US bomber, why the Korean press isn't even focusing on this issue, because it would divide the US and South Korean military?
BRIAN WILSON: Well, I think the Korean press acts a lot like the US press. I mean, they basically represent the prevailing view of the government in power, and it’s very, very difficult to criticize the United States in Korea, and only a few alternative press —
AMY GOODMAN: Last word to Reverend Kiyul Chung.
REV. KIYUL CHUNG: Like your radio program, your station. That’s why people in Korea and overseas in the United States are trying to bring about the truth to light, because the government in South Korea and the US government wouldn’t necessarily bring about this truth to the world. And so, people in Korea and overseas formed the Pan Korean Special Committee to investigate the civilian massacres during the Korean War the last May. So, it is something the people like you and your program can help, and we will bring people from Korea to the US.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Kiyul Chung, we have to leave now. We’ll have information on our website how people can get in touch with these committees. Reverend Kiyul Chung, Korean American Methodist minister, originally from South Korea, speaking to us now from his home in Maryland. Brian Wilson, former lieutenant in Vietnam, speaking to us from Monterey, California.