Moon vows to get to bottom of crackdown on 1980 democracy movement

May 18, 2017

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) — President Moon Jae-in on Thursday hinted at reinvestigating the military’s bloody crackdown of a pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju in 1980.

The new liberal leader attended an annual ceremony marking the citizens’ armed resistance against then coup leaders in the city, located 350 kilometers south of Seoul.

“Still, there are attempts in our society to distort and disparage what happened in Gwangju in May,” the president said in his address at a national cemetery, which houses 680 people who died in the armed crackdown or later due to injuries sustained in the 10-day crackdown following the May 18 democratic uprising.

“We will find out without fail the truth and who is responsible for the firing of weapons, including military helicopters,” the president said.

President Moon Jae-in (L) shakes hands with political leaders while attending an annual ceremony marking the 1980 democracy movement in Gwangju, 350 kilometers south of Seoul, on May 18, 2017. (Yonhap)President Moon Jae-in (L) shakes hands with political leaders while attending an annual ceremony marking the 1980 democracy movement in Gwangju, 350 kilometers south of Seoul, on May 18, 2017. (Yonhap)

The president’s remarks followed the recent release of an autobiography of former President Chun Doo-hwan, in which the former leader denied ordering the military’s crackdown on the Gwangju movement, which was held in opposition against his rise to power through a military coup staged in the previous year.

Moon did not mention Chun by name but said attempts to distort the truth will not be tolerated.

He insisted revealing the truth behind the armed crackdown must not be an issue of conflict between liberals and conservatives, calling it a matter of “common sense and justice.”

The president also vowed efforts to amend the Constitution to have the peaceful, democratic spirit of the 1980 movement stated in the supreme law.

“On this occasion, I courteously ask the National Assembly, and our people’s support and consent to revise the Constitution with the spirit of the May 18 movement,” he said.

This year’s ceremony also marked the first of its kind in nine years where the singing of a song, “March for the Beloved,” significant and meaningful to democracy fighters, was made an official part of the annual ceremony.

The captured image from Yonhap News TV shows President Moon Jae-in singing along to 'March for the Beloved' while attending a ceremony held May 18, 2017, in Gwangju to mark the 1980 democracy movement held in the city located 350 kilometers south of Seoul. The president made the controversial song an official part of the annual ceremony shortly after his inauguration on May 10, 2017. (Yonhap)The captured image from Yonhap News TV shows President Moon Jae-in singing along to ‘March for the Beloved’ while attending a ceremony held May 18, 2017, in Gwangju to mark the 1980 democracy movement held in the city located 350 kilometers south of Seoul. The president made the controversial song an official part of the annual ceremony shortly after his inauguration on May 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

“‘March for the Beloved’ is not simply a song. It is a symbol of the blood and the lives spilled in Gwangju in May,” the president said.

The new president made the song an official part of the ceremony with an executive order immediately following his inauguration last Wednesday.

The song had been played and performed by a choir under the two former conservative governments before Moon, but the former administrations refused to have everyone sing the song.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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