Moon: Truth must come to light on May 18 Democratization Movement

May 19, 2020, 08:25 am

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President Moon Jae-in speaks during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Democratization Movement in Gwangju on May 18, 2020./ Source: Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporter Lee Seok-jong 

President Moon Jae-in promised to uncover the truth regarding the May 17 Gwangju Democratization Movement as the nation marked the 40th anniversary of the movement on Monday.

In response, an aide to former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan’s aide declined to directly comment on whether Chun ordered soldiers to fire on Gwangju citizens during the May 18 movement and should be held legally accountable.

“The government will also make best efforts to find the truth about the bloody crackdown,” Moon said during an official anniversary ceremony held at the May 18 Democratization Square in front of the former South Jeolla Provincial Government Office in Gwangju. 

“I firmly pledge every form of support so that the May 18 fact-finding commission, which was launched on May 12, finds the truth behind the crackdown,” the president said. “The facts about such state violence must be clarified without fail by uncovering the people who gave the orders to open fire, the massacre of civilians by martial law troops, machine gun shots from helicopters and the suspicions about cover-ups and fabrications.”

“As truth is revealed to the world piece by piece, the pent-up agonies in hearts will be relieved one by one, and we will be able to move toward the path of forgiveness and reconciliation that much closely,” Moon said. “There will be no place for distorted facts and denigration of what happened.”

“The purpose is not about punishment, but about documenting history properly,” the president said. “If those who are accountable show courage and confess the truth even now, the path to forgiveness and reconciliation will open up.”

“We will ensure that not a single person will suffer unfairly when trying to locate the missing from the May 18 Democratization Movement, restore the honor of previously unknown victims and provide them with reparations and compensation. We will make efforts to bring back the honor of various victims such as soldiers and dismissed journalists, in addition to police officers,” he said. 

The president stressed again that the spirit of the May 18 Democratization Movement should be reflected in the Constitution in the future.

“Inscribing the May 18 Democratization Movement in the preamble of the Constitution is positioning the Movement as a great chapter in the history of the Republic of Korea that no one can damage or deny. In 2018, I presented a proposal for a constitutional revision that contains the succession of the Movement’s ideology. If the revision is achieved someday, I hope that the cause will be upheld,” he said. 

“The biggest driving force behind uncovering the truth is the people who empathize with Gwangju’s pain. Our people, as the sovereigns of a democratic republic, have waded through the enormous currents of democracy from the April 19 Revolution and the Busan-Masan Democratic Protests through May 18 Democratization Movement, the June 10 Democratization Struggle and the Candlelight Revolution,” the president said. 

“The people’s strides toward the complete truth about the May 18 Democratization Movement can neither be turned back nor stopped. The truth that the people ascertain and remember together will be become the strength that makes our society more just and the foundation for national harmony and unity,” he said. 

The president also promised full restoration of the former Jeollanam-do Provincial Government Building, where the event was held.

“The Government is holding the May 18 Democratization Movement anniversary ceremony at the square in front of the former Jeollanam-do Provincial Government Building for the first time, not in the May 18 National Cemetery, in the hope that our citizens will commemorate May 18 together and revive May 18 in their daily lives,” Moon said. 

“The Spirit of May will continue to come back to life at the former Jeollanam-do Provincial Government Building and this square. The Government will provide full support so that the pain of Gwangju and the value of the righteous struggle will go down in history through the faithful restoration of the building,” he said. 

“Forty years ago, Gwangju showed with noble courage and dedication who the masters of this country are,” the president said. “We’ve asked ourselves whether we are righteous while recalling Gwangju. We did not lose the courage to move toward democracy while holding each other’s hands bearing this question in mind.”

“The power to change the world always lies in the people,” Moon said. “Now, we will have to achieve democracy at home, in the workplace and in the economy by taking democracy beyond our politics and society. For the sake of a global order where everyone cooperates and shares, we must recall what happened on this square in front of the Jeollanam-do Provincial Government Building in May.”

In regards to who is responsible for firing on civilians during the May 18 Democratization Movement, Min Jeong-gi, former public affairs secretary during the May 18 movement, said then-Army chief Lee Hui-sang had claimed responsibility for the shootings. “I don’t want to make remarks, nor is there anything to talk about,” Min said. 

Min claimed that Lee was the martial law commander at the time and that Chun was not in a position to know about what was being done by the military. 

#Gwangju #May 18 #Democratization Movement #Moon Jae-in 
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