A federal commission yesterday approved a design for a Korean War memorial despite a plea from the memorial's original architects to stop.

The architects, who won a national competition to design the memorial, say their design was "brutally changed" by federal bureaucrats and a retired general and now "glorifies war."

"I urge you to just stop -- stop and consider," architect Don Leon told the National Capital Memorial Commission at a public hearing. The commission is a part of the Interior Department.

The firm's original design has been dramatically altered since President Bush unveiled it at the White House in June 1989. Leon described the changes as "an insidious erosion."

The revised design for the memorial, planned to go in Ash Woods southeast of the Lincoln Memorial, must still be approved by the U.S. Fine Arts Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission.

Leon and architect John Paul Lucas said they would appeal to both panels in meetings next month. If they fail, a lawsuit is possible, their attorney, Robert Sokolove, said yesterday.

The changes have been executed by Cooper-Lecky Architects of Washington, which added heroic statues to the Vietnam War memorial after a bitter battle.

Cooper-Lecky presented its revised design for the Korean War memorial at yesterday's hearing.

What were to be statues of a unit on patrol will now be soldiers poised for battle. What was to be a ceremonial plaza has been altered at the request of the Army Corps of Engineers to include an entirely new element -- a large mural that will define the history of the war. Its details remain unsettled.

The definition of the war is at issue in the debate over the memorial.

It is "a forgotten victory," said a statement released at the hearing by the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board, headed by retired Gen. Richard G. Stilwell, a former CIA operations chief for the Far East.

Stilwell, who commanded U.S. ground forces in Korea, has been a central figure in the fight over the memorial.

He said in an interview after the commission's unanimous vote that the new design was "dynamic" and that the memorial was "on the right track."