South Koreans who say they survived the killings demanded a formal U.S. investigation Thursday into what happened beneath the No Gun Ri railroad bridge in July 1950.
"The U.S. government can no longer deny its responsibility," they said in a statement.
The Pentagon, which denied there was any evidence to the already-investigated claims, said any "compelling new evidence" would cause it take another look at the long-standing allegations.
"We have no evidence that this alleged event occurred," Kenneth Bacon, chief spokesman for the Defense Department, told reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, traveling with Defense Secretary William Cohen.
"It's been investigated time and time again," Bacon said.
On Thursday, Army Secretary Louis Caldera said the account "clearly has raised new information that demanded that it be looked into."
President Clinton said the Pentagon "wants to get to the bottom of it."
The South Korean government said it would investigate whether the survivors' claims are true or not.
"With keen attention, we'll try to verify the truth of all related things concerning the case," Foreign Ministry spokesman Chang Chul-kyun said. "Any further action will be decided after those efforts are finished."
|The bridge at No Gun Ri today.|
The Koreans say 300 of their relatives and other civilians were shot to death at the bridge, and 100 others died in a preceding U.S. air attack. American veterans said anywhere from 100 to "hundreds" of civilians were killed.
The AP also reported, based on declassified U.S. military archives, that U.S. commanders at the time issued orders to their troops to shoot civilians to guard against disguised North Korean enemy among columns of South Korean refugees
"If there's compelling new evidence to look at, obviously it would be important to make sure we've left no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of it," said the Pentagon's Bacon.
One of the survivors, Park Sun-young, 74, said her family was among hundreds who had taken refuge on a mountain near No Gun Ri because they had heard North Korean soldiers were on the way.
Park, then a 25-year-old mother of a 6-year-od daughter and a 3-year-old son, said U.S. soldiers ordered them to evacuate and led them down the mountain.
"But suddenly they pushed us up to the railroad and investigated our belongings. Then we heard an air attack and gun fire," Park said.
"It was so terrible. Imagine people collapsed and bleeding. Many of them were housewives, old people and children. It was a sea of blood and I could hear screaming everywhere."
"I lost my son, daughter and relatives," Park said. "What would you say if you saw the legs of your son blown away and the neck of your daughter cut away with her heart penetrated by a bullet?" Park sobbed.
"I couldn't sleep for 10 years afterward. I have suffered from nightmares the past 50 years," she said.
But Park said "surprisingly" the American soldiers buried her daughter and son and took her to a local hospital.
Military historian Stephen E. Ambrose signaled that the news about No Gun Ri was not surprising.
"Whenever you put guns into the hands of poorly trained young men and send them off to a foreign country, bad things are sure to happen," he said.