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Bareunmirae Party floor leader proposes changes to rules for May 18 fact-finding committee

Minor conservative Bareunmirae Party Floor Leader Kim Kwan-young proposed a revision to the Special Act on the May 18 Democratization Movement that would allow a fact-finding committee to be launched with only two-thirds of the mandated nine members, in an effort to break a deadlock in the process of forming the committee, the lawmaker said Monday.

The revision was proposed on the day of former President Chun Doo-hwan’s trial in Gwangju on libel charges in connection with the military crackdown on the 1980 pro-democracy movement in Gwangju. Chun came to power in 1979 in a military coup and orchestrated the crackdown in 1980.

The formation of the fact-finding committee hit a snag when President Moon Jae-in rejected the main opposition Liberty Korea Party’s nomination of controversial far-right figures who claimed there was North Korean involvement in the pro-democracy movement. 

Bareunmirae Party Floor Leader Rep. Kim Kwan-young (Yonhap)
Bareunmirae Party Floor Leader Rep. Kim Kwan-young (Yonhap)

“Formation of the fact-finding (committee) has been delayed since Cheong Wa Dae refused to appoint candidates recommended by the Liberty Korea Party. To speed up the process of finding the truth of the May Uprising, there is a need to partially ease the conditions on committee formation,” Kim said.

The standstill is largely the result of the conservative Liberty Korea Party’s decision to nominate three controversial figures, setting off a public uproar after lawmakers made offensive arguments concerning the historically significant democratic movement.

The current Special Act on the May 18 Democratization Movement stipulates a nine-member committee, including three positions allocated to the Liberty Korea Party.

The fact-finding committee is tasked with determining who was responsible for the human rights violations and the massacre that occurred during the Gwangju Uprising in May 1980.

With the Liberty Korea Party showing no signs of searching for alternative nominees, the committee’s offices in Gwangju and Seoul have been sitting idle for three months, costing taxpayers a combined 108 million won ($95,300) in maintenance.

In January the main opposition party recommended three controversial figures: former chief of the Combined Forces Command’s special operations team Kwon Tae-oh, former Monthly Chosun magazine reporter Lee Dong-wook and former Suwon District Court Judge Cha Ki-hwan.

Cha retweeted an article in 2012 claiming the Gwangju Uprising was a riot caused by North Korean soldiers sent to the South.

By Kim Bo-gyung (