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Gwangju archbishop hopes for justice for missing victims of 1980 military crackdown

By Kim Arin

Published : Dec. 23, 2019 - 15:53

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Archbishop Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju wished justice would be served for victims of atrocities committed during martial law in May 1980 in a Christmas message issued Monday.

Speaking about the recently unearthed human remains at a former prison site in Gwangju, a city with a history of pro-democratic struggles, the archbishop said he hoped perpetrators of the violent crackdown on civilian protesters would come forward and bring truth to light.

He said he hoped those who were involved “would speak their conscience, so that unfortunate history would not repeat itself in the future.”


The photo shows one of two skulls with holes of unknown causes that were found among remains. (Yonhap) The photo shows one of two skulls with holes of unknown causes that were found among remains. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Justice launched a committee Monday following the remains’ discovery Thursday.

The committee comprising nine officials from the ministry’s correctional services held its first meeting Monday afternoon, after visiting the site where remains were discovered.

Committee head Yoo Seung-man told The Korea Herald that the Justice Ministry would look into how the remains of some 40 unidentified people were buried under a mass grave for prisoners without kin.

Yoo said the Justice Ministry committee would handle the administrative parts of the investigation, while a separate joint squad of police, prosecution and Defense Ministry would primarily take on the forensic examination.

The bones were found during a Justice Ministry-led search for missing victims of the May 1980 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, widely known as the Gwangju Democratic Uprising.

Groups dedicated to the democratic movement have suggested the remains may belong to civilians who went missing at the time.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)