GWANGJU, South Korea, May 20 (UPI) -- An American journalist said he found no evidence 600 North Korean soldiers infiltrated the South Korean city of Gwangju during a pro-democracy uprising 25 years ago.
Speaking at an event at the May 18 Memorial Culture Center, Timothy Scott Shorrock said claims of North Korean interference during a pro-democracy movement have no documented evidence, reported South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Shorrock's statement comes two years after retired U.S. Army General John Wickham said that it is "plausible" North Korea had tried to take advantage of a civic protest against an authoritarian South Korean government.
Wickham said there ultimately was no evidence of North Korean intervention but in 2013 men who identified themselves as former North Korean military officers said they were deployed to attack South Korean government forces in Gwangju -- and encourage riot -- at the time of the uprising.
The movement was brutally suppressed at the time, and at least 600 people died during a South Korea military-led crackdown -- though some estimates range far higher, in the thousands.
Shorrock said he studied a classified U.S. document from the time period that showed no mention of North Korea involvement in South Korean affairs.
The document named "Cherokee" instead showed evidence of U.S. approval of South Korean troop mobilization into the city of Gwangju -- and Washington's facilitation of Chun Doo-hwan's military coup d'état in 1979.
South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Sinmun reported Shorrock's investigation further exposed a 1989 U.S. government denial of involvement in Gwangju. Specifically, Washington informed South Korea's National Assembly that they did not know South Korean airborne rangers were being mobilized into the city at the time of the crackdown.
Shorrock's investigation was published in the Journal of Commerce in 1996, and he has also covered the lack of U.S. government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Shorrock said Wednesday Seoul's lack of action in addressing the grievances of Sewol protesters was not that different from the feeble response of the Bush administration toward victims of Hurricane Katrina.