Death of South Korean dictator leaves brutal legacy unresolved | The powerful 790 KFGO


By Hyonhee Shin and Yeni Seo

SEOUL (Reuters) – The death this week of South Korea’s last military dictator, Chun Doo-hwan, marks the end of a divisive chapter in the country’s modern history, but does not leave survivors of the violence of his regime closer to reconciliation or resolution.

Chun died on Tuesday at the age of 90 years old.

Hundreds of people are estimated to have died or gone missing when the South Korean government violently suppressed the uprising in Gwangju by pro-democracy protesters in May 1980, when Chun was the de facto leader of the country after leading a coup. ‘Military state.

Years after the massacre, many details remain unconfirmed, including who ordered troops to open fire on protesters. Many victims remain unidentified.

The lack of contrition and cooperation from former regime members, including Chun, hampered efforts to uncover the whole truth, victims said.

“I’m afraid a lot of the truth may be hidden with the death of Chun Doo-hwan,” said Kim Young-man, 57, who still has a scar on his head from which a police officer took it. hit with a stick.

Kim is hoping former regime members come forward to shed light on the bloody crackdown, but like many other victims, he was disheartened that Chun died without showing significant remorse.

Months after leaving office in 1988 amid growing calls for democracy, Chun issued a formal apology for the abuses committed during his tenure, notably in Gwangju.

But later he appeared to reverse some of that contrition, making victims doubt the sincerity of the apology as he took a defensive and defensive stance until the end.

“Chun Doo-hwan was not the type to apologize,” Kim said. “Yet, if he had apologized, I think there would have been a possibility that the citizens of Gwangju who have been heartbroken for 41 years would feel a little better.”

In 1996, Chun was sentenced to death for corruption and treason, but the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment and later commuted.

More recently, he has been involved in other legal disputes, including being convicted in 2020 of defaming a priest who claimed to have witnessed the crackdown on Gwangju.

On Wednesday, a day after Chun’s death, a group of 70 Gwangju survivors, including Kim, filed a lawsuit against the government seeking redress for emotional harm.

Some victims have been compensated for the loss of their jobs, but other emotional and psychological trauma compensation claims faced legal hurdles until a Supreme Court ruling in September, said Lee Ki-bong. , an official of the Memorial Foundation of May 18 who works with the families.

A group of victims gathered in front of the hospital on Thursday where Chun’s body was taken, holding signs telling him “to go to hell.” They condemned some of Chun’s former collaborators who characterize the uprising as a North Korean Communist-inspired plot.

In November, the main conservative party’s presidential candidate, Yoon Suk-yeol, visited Gwangju to apologize after appearing to apologize or praise Chun by saying that many people thought the former president “was really good at it. policy apart from the coup d’état and the events of May 1980.. “

Chun will not be entitled to a state funeral, and authorities have said his conviction for treason made him ineligible to be buried in a national cemetery.

“After Chun Doo-hwan’s death, the South Korean news seems to be pure emotion, disbelief as to how he never apologized,” Korean-American author Suki tweeted. Kim.

“It is a strange thing to want an apology from a ruthless dictator, decades later, as if he expected justice to be done by (a) universe that had authorized that dictator.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Yeni Seo; writing by Josh Smith; editing by Stephen Coates)


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