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South Korean court rules Seoul not responsible for Korean War victim

The court reversed an earlier ruling for the family of a South Korean victim who was killed under U.S. artillery fire during the war.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Feb. 29, 2016 at 10:38 PM
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SEOUL, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court of South Korea ruled the Seoul government is not responsible for compensating a victim of U.S. shelling during the 1950-53 Korean War, even if the bombing involved South Korean armed forces.

The court reversed an earlier ruling for the family of a South Korean victim who was killed under U.S. artillery fire during the war, Yonhap reported.

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The original decision, which instructed the government to pay the victim's family $39,550, was reversed and the plaintiff's case was returned to a Seoul High Court.

The victim with the surname Bang was fleeing the war in September 1950, when he was killed by artillery fire originating from a U.S. Pacific Fleet destroyer, the Haven, along the beach of Pohang, a South Korean port city.

The naval destroyer had received instructions to fire artillery but requested a confirmation from the Republic of Korea 3rd Division, because the target onshore included a mix of Korean refugees that included Bang. According to records, the 3rd Division's Shore Fire Control Party said they had intelligence enemy troops were mixed in with the crowd, and ordered the shelling.

In a first trial, a South Korean court ruled the 3rd Division was operating under a U.S. senior adviser, Lt. Col. Rollins S. Emmerich, and the South Korean government is not liable for the death of innocent civilians.

During a second trial, however, a South Korean judge ruled South Korean armed forces ordered the shelling at its own discretion, and that there was no evidence Col. Emmerich had influenced the decision.

But the South Korean Supreme Court used precedents – previous cases when the military sanctioned the use of force against people, even civilians – to overturn the ruling. During wartime, the U.S. military often presumed enemy troops attacked while disguised as civilians, and the court pointed to past cases when U.S. troops were held responsible for Bang's death.

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