ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on April 24th, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Claimants Seek Korean War Compensation from the US Over Wolmi-do Bombings

» by in: Korean War

Here is a story in the Stars & Stripes about former residents of Wolmi-do Island in Incheon wanting compensation for their losses during the Korean War:

Every September, thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops and veterans gather at this port city for pomp-filled ceremonies, speeches and even re-enactments, marking the anniversary of the Incheon Landing, a daring amphibious assault that became the turning point in the Korean War.

But not Jeong Ji-eun, a quiet 68-year-old taxi driver whose father was killed when U.S. pilots strafed their village on Wolmi Island in the days before the Sept. 15, 1950, attack, hoping to clear out the North Korean forces embedded there.

“Who can celebrate someone’s family’s death?” he said.

The U.S. believed the attack on the island, which had been taken over by some 400 North Korean troops, was critical to the success of the invasion a few days later. Had the Incheon Landing not succeeded, some historians believe that U.N. forces could have lost the war.

More than 60 years later, Jeong and 160 others who used to live on Wolmi Island are suing the South Korean government for compensation for property their families lost in the bombing.

Also named in the lawsuit are the city of Incheon, whose boundaries include the island; the United States; and the United Nations, which oversaw the international coalition that fought the North Koreans and Chinese forces.

The lawsuit, filed in Incheon District Court in February, asks that about $2,750 be awarded to each of the 44 households represented in the suit, though some islanders say they might ask for more.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read much more at the link but the claimants want land on Wolmi-do returned to them as well and if not to be compensated with money, houses, or apartments instead.  I first reported on this story last year when the Hankyoreh was busy hyping claims made by the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Commission who are notorious for their sloppy historical research that is likely politically motivated.

First of all let me just say it is horrible what happened to the effected people, but it is important to remember that they are just a small group of an overall group of millions of more Korean civilians that were adversely effected by the Korean War.  If they want compensation they should lodge their lawsuit against North Korea who initiated the war in the first place.  If it wasn’t for North Korea there would be no US planes needed to bomb Wolmi-do to dislodge them from the island.

While were on the subject of the pilots let discuss a few key fact that are important to remember.  During the Korean War pilots had poor maps, poor on the ground intelligence, especially during the opening months of the war, as well as no smart bombs like the US military has today.  So even if they knew exactly where a target was there was still a high likelihood that some of the bombs would miss it.  Even today with precision smart bombs even they sometimes miss their target.  Then you throw in the fact that the North Koreans often disguised themselves as civilians and the UN forces were in a desperate do or die situation and you have a perfect storm of circumstances that led to so many civilian casualties during the Korean War due to air strikes.

So should the US military have not bombed the North Koreans during the Korean War and risked losing the entire country?  If you are in the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Commission you have to wonder if some of those people are disappointed that the North Koreans didn’t win the war.  Anyway does anyone know if any Europeans sued the US government over the D-Day Landings?

Anyway like I said before these claimants should sue the North Korean government and then through available legal means seek compensation through assets seized from North Korea.

Finally, you can see pictures I took of Wolmi-do here.  I have been there a few of times and have never seen these protesters.  Has anyone else ever seen them?

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  • kangaji
    11:59 am on April 24th, 2011 1

    When I read stories like this, I wish politicians had to clear rooms in shoot no-shoot real life scenarios where they could either be dead, injured, jailed or have to clear the next room for their decision.

  • setnaffa
    1:04 pm on April 24th, 2011 2

    I'm in agreement that KJI is the only one potentially liable for a wartime action necessary to free South Korea from the communist invaders.

    And it's quite likely that anyone not killed by the Norks was a collaborator anyway…

  • Steve Austin
    1:20 pm on April 24th, 2011 3

    They should sue the North for starting the war, in the first place. As for that Commission, they might as well be working for the North. Same results.

  • Maj.America
    1:33 pm on April 24th, 2011 4

    @2 "And it’s quite likely that anyone not killed by the Norks was a collaborator anyway…"

    Excellent point.

  • kushibo
    1:35 pm on April 24th, 2011 5

    Is the problem that their houses were destroyed in the bombing, or that the land on which it was built was taken from them? One is an inevitable tragedy of war, but the other sounds like government malfeasance (if they were not compensated).

    Wolmido today is thriving — and has been for decades — and if that came about because they took a bunch of land destroyed in the war and didn't compensate, that's a problem.

    I'm asking these questions, not making a statement.

  • jslim
    1:46 pm on April 24th, 2011 6

    wonder why no one is suing NK over the recent shelling over yongpyong?

  • Hume's Bastard
    5:08 pm on April 24th, 2011 7

    Generally, I would agree with Kushibo. But, the Wolmi Incident is part of a long list of incidents, whether initiated by leftists or rightists, committed during the first year of the war – mostly during the initial KPA invasion and comprise some of the most controversial cases covered in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.

    I would argue on pragmatic grounds that it's in the government's interest to decide these cases fairly and with large dollops of money. All these cases are reminders that neither the ROK nor DPRK are innocent, and some of these issues could resurface again IF and WHEN unification becomes an issue.

  • kushibo
    6:16 pm on April 24th, 2011 8

    Hume's Bastard, thanks for the support, but honestly I don't have anything there to agree with — yet. I was genuinely asking a question to discern whether it's wartime destruction or eminent domain that is at heart of the matter. If it's the latter, then I agree, large dollops of money.

    And you are so right about the issue when unification rolls around. On both sides of the DMZ there are folks who people on the other side of the DMZ would consider squatters.

    My apartment was formerly public housing, so I should go check and see if ownership remained consistent to before 1948 or 1945. I know that with my old house/office (a 전세 contract; I didn't own the home) it was owned by the same people since it was built in the 1930s.

  • Tbonetylr
    7:00 pm on April 24th, 2011 9

    Is this really the first time they have filed suit? Sure did take long enough aye? If U.S. hadn't done what it did they wouldn't even know the word "lawsuit."

  • archieb
    7:18 pm on April 24th, 2011 10

    How long has it been since the war? Why sue now?

  • Teadrinker
    7:46 pm on April 24th, 2011 11

    I'm not so sure about the poor maps argument, though. They would have had Japanese topographic maps, wouldn't they? I've been told by veterans who used them during the Korean War that these were very accurate.

  • kushibo
    8:19 pm on April 24th, 2011 12

    They probably were using Japanese maps. The famous Chosin Reservoir is the Japanese name for Changjin (Jangjin) Lake.

  • kushibo
    8:23 pm on April 24th, 2011 13

    ArchieB, why sue now? Well, in the Rhee administration, they could have been imprisoned or even executed for making a stink. In the Park era, they still could have been imprisoned.

    During the subsequent military rule or rule by former military or their cronies, which lasted until just thirteen years and a few months ago, they would have simply been ignored (in fact, maybe they did try to sue or seek compensation then).

    In the past thirteen years, they may have needed time to gather documents (some of which may not have been available), and they might have seen others making a huge profit on their confiscated land, which may have been an impetus.

    I can think of a whole bunch of reasons why they might have had to wait until the 2000s.

  • Teadrinker
    11:49 pm on April 24th, 2011 14


    Yes, and the name of many battle sites (Hill 355, for example) is the altitude from sea level of the highest peak on the ridge as indicated on the Japanese colonial maps. If you move the cursor over these peaks in Google Earth, it will indicate the altitude and you'll see that the Japanese measurements were accurate.

  • Teadrinker
    11:50 pm on April 24th, 2011 15

    PS. The altitude in meters, not feet or yards.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    12:10 am on April 25th, 2011 16

    They are suing now due to the findings last year from the T&R Commission that is blaming the US for indiscriminate bombing of the the civilians on Wolmi-do:

    The only result that has been won was a decision by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea (TRCK). In 2008, TRCK ruled that it could not confirm that the United States made efforts to reduce civilian casualties despite the possibility that it was aware of the existence of civilian homes on Wolmi Island, and this violated the principles in international humanitarian law and the laws of war of distinguishing civilians and proportionality. [Hankyoreh]

    The heart of the issue is the loss of their homes on Wolmi-do though. That is what they are seeking compensation for while the bombings it appears they just want official acknowledgement and an apology for. None of the media articles though have bothered to ask if they received any prior compensation from the government when they were forced to relocate. I suspect they probably did receive a small amount that is no where near worth the price of the land on Wolmi-do today. I also suspect the Korean government is hesitant to pay them compensation because it could cause new compensation cases to come out of other areas in Korea as people see a chance to make some money.

  • me
    12:54 am on April 25th, 2011 17

    What a joke

  • setnaffa
    1:30 am on April 25th, 2011 18

    Some of one of my friend's family lost homes in Wonsan due to US shelling. Of course, they had "bugged out" a week before 6/25, so they were in Pusan at the time.

    There are valid reasons for fighting wars. And we have no way of knowing if the family members had already accepted money from the ROK government to resettle and now just want to try to embarrass the USA.

    I frankly don't believe any of it.

  • kushibo
    5:54 pm on April 25th, 2011 19

    Well, that's the question we need to answer first: Were they compensated for the loss of their land, if in fact they lost the rights to their land?

    If that's what this is about, I don't see how American conservatives could get behind the use of eminent domain that didn't involve compensation.

    setnaffa, I apologize in advance if I'm barking up the wrong tree, but I get the impression you're too easily dismissing this because they have had the audacity to sue the US. If that is the case, I would like to point out that they're also suing the UN and the city of Inch'ŏn. In fact, all those entities are listed in the article as "also named in the lawsuit," which seems, like many lawsuits, to be casting a wide net even though there is one primary perpetrator, in this case the South Korean government.

  • Retired GI
    1:35 am on April 26th, 2011 20

    It's all about the money Honey. Just another whore. Should have pulled out sooner, or better yet, not played at all. They smell weakness and see the opportunity in the current America. I don't blame them. One should always take advantage of a new situation. Best thing that happened for America in Vietnam was that we unassed the area. Should have done the same in Korea.

  • setnaffa
    3:19 am on April 26th, 2011 21

    Kushibo, I'm just thinking they're broke and a shady lawyer talked them into the lawsuit hoping for a settlement. I think they and their attorney ought to be investigated. And I do believe that any South Koreans left alive on Wolmido by the Norks were likely collaborators, if not actual communists.

    I also think they should be suing through their government instead of trying to use up all of their 15 minutes. I think they are still working with the Norks.

  • Retired GI
    6:14 am on April 26th, 2011 22

    I think American Familes should sue The ROK government AND these individuals for the lose of their loved ones who died defending Korea.

    And "yes" these individuals were likely working with the DPRK at the time.

  • setnaffa
    7:28 am on April 26th, 2011 23

    Great idea, Retired GI!


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