President Moon Jae-in on Monday criticized those taking issue with the 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising, saying that the controversial claims are damaging to democracy and undermining the country’s foundations.
“Some in the National Assembly and political arena who are raising claims, such as North Korean soldiers being sent to the South, and referring to the May 18 Democratization Movement as a riot, are denying our history of democracy and the Constitution,” Moon said at a meeting Monday with his senior aides.
President Moon Jae-in speaks at the meeting with senior aides on Monday. Yonhap
He added that such actions were damaging to democracy, and that such claims were “self-denial that the National Assembly should be ashamed of.”
Moon went on to say that while freedom of expression and thought is guaranteed, the exercising of such rights cannot be allowed to damage democracy.
“(I) urge the people to reject actions aimed at gaining political advantages by creating hatred using a democratization movement that required so much sacrifice.”
Moon cited laws passed in 1990 for compensating and honoring those involved in the movement, and the designation of May 18 for national commemoration in 1997, as proof that there is no controversy regarding the nature of the incident.
The government and the National Assembly are in the process of launching another fact-finding committee to look into the incident. Last week, Moon rejected two of the three nominees recommended by the Liberty Korea Party, which prompted backlash from the main opposition.
Moon’s comments follow weeks of controversy sparked by a forum organized by several lawmakers of the Liberty Korea Party.
During the forum, three Liberty Korea Party lawmakers -- Reps. Kim Jin-tae, Kim Soon-rye, and Lee Jong-myeong -- voiced controversial views, claiming that the 1980 Gwangju Uprising was led by North Korean soldiers and that the movement was an anti-government riot.
In addition, Kim Soon-rye referred to those honored as contributors to the movement as “monsters,” inciting backlash from ruling and other opposition parties.
The Liberty Korea Party has since decided to remove Lee from the party while postponing its decision on the two Kims, citing regulations regarding its leadership elections. Kim Jin-tae is running for the party’s chairmanship, while Kim Soon-rye is vying for a position on the party’s supreme council.
The Democratic Party and three minor opposition parties have filed complaints against the three lawmakers to the parliamentary ethics committee.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org