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Ex-military dictator’s grandson apologizes to victims in Gwangju

Grandson says Chun Doo-hwan was ‘criminal, murderer’

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : March 31, 2023 - 11:45

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Chun Woo-won, grandson of the late former military dictator Chun Doo-hwan, consoles Kim Gil-ja, who lost a loved one during the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising, on behalf of his grandfather on Friday. (Yonhap) Chun Woo-won, grandson of the late former military dictator Chun Doo-hwan, consoles Kim Gil-ja, who lost a loved one during the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising, on behalf of his grandfather on Friday. (Yonhap)

Chun Woo-won, a grandson of the late former military dictator President Chun Doo-hwan, officially apologized to the bereaved families of the victims of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising and to the citizens of Gwangju.

At around 10 a.m. on Friday, Chun Woo-won, the second son of the ex-dictator’s son, Chun Jae-yong, along with organizations related to the victims, held a meeting with the bereaved families and victims at the reception hall on the first floor of the May 18th Memorial Cultural Center in Seo-gu, Gwangju.

The junior Chun met with people, including Kim Gil-ja, the mother of the late Moon Jae-hak, a student militia student, Kim Tae-soo, who was shot in front of Gwangju prison on the evening of May 21 and suffered trauma for a long time, and Kim Kwan, a victim of assault and detention.

The uprising began on May 18, 1980 as a response to a coup d'etat which solidified Chun Doo-hwan's military regime over South Korea. The military arrested opposition leaders, closed all universities, banned political activities and censored the press. It also violently suppressed the uprising, killing and torturing hundreds of people.

The junior Chun said his grandfather, Chun Doo-hwan, was “a criminal, a murderer,” and a member of the family who “committed a very serious crime” during the uprising. He thanked people who gave “such a precious opportunity to an ugly sinner like me.”

Expressing his sincere apology for coming so late, he said, “I know there are many victims. I am sorry to the extent that I recognize that my coming has hurt you, and thank you for giving me a precious opportunity.”

“Despite so much sacrifice and suffering from the Japanese colonial period to the military dictatorship, my grandfather, Chun Doo-hwan, failed to promote the development of democracy and instead allowed democracy to flow in reverse,” he said.

After finishing the press conference, Chun visited the memorial and sublimation space located in the May 18th Memorial Cultural Center, and moved to the May 18th National Cemetery in Gwangju at around 11:30 a.m. to pay his respects to those who lost their lives during the uprising.