South Korea's president called today for a joint U.S.-South Korean investigation into allegations that American forces gunned down several hundred refugees at the start of the Korean War.

"We must be aggressive in unveiling the truth," President Kim Dae Jung was quoted as telling a meeting of senior presidential aides. "Investigating together with the United States will be more efficient."

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported accounts by American veterans and South Korean villagers who said they saw U.S. soldiers kill up to 400 civilians in No Gun Ri, South Korea, in 1950 during the early days of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The AP also found once-classified documents showing that U.S. commanders ordered their troops to shoot civilians because they feared enemy soldiers might have infiltrated the group of refugees.

The U.S. and South Korean governments promised thorough investigations. Both governments previously had dismissed the survivors' claims.

Kim indicated that the government will help compensate the victims.

"The incident happened 50 years ago, but if such innocent civilians were indeed killed, the truth must be known and the souls of the dead and the bereaved families must be consoled," Kim said.

Officials at the foreign and defense ministries said they have contacted U.S. officials for possible cooperation in the investigation.