May 19, 2017 10:32
President Moon Jae-in on Thursday joined a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising in the southwestern city.
More than 10,000 people attended the event at the May 18th National Cemetery to remember those who rose up against the military junta of President Chun Doo-hwan. It was the largest ceremony ever as citizens were allowed into the cemetery without invitations for the first time. It was also the first time in four years that an incumbent president attended the ceremony.
Both conservative presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye were reluctant to take part in the event in the traditional liberal stronghold for fear of upsetting their hardline supporters.
All 2,000 seats were filled before the ceremony began, and thousands watched standing. People applauded and cheered when Moon arrived at around 9:50 a.m.
"Thanks to the sacrifice of Gwangju people, the democracy of Korea could persist and survive," said Moon, a former human rights lawyer. "I declare the newly launched administration in line with the spirit of Gwangju."
The 53-minute ceremony was arranged by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. Previous ceremonies lasted only 20 minutes. Afterwards Moon paid his respects at memorials for demonstrators who are believed to have died at the hands of the military in the brutal crackdown.
And estimated 200 people were killed and over 800 injured, but the full story has never been established.
Meanwhile, Moon reiterated a pledge to reflect the spirit of the uprising in a rewrite of the Constitution. The president added that he would conduct a thorough investigation of the killings and find out who is responsible for the bloody attack.
"The new government will exert efforts in finding out the truth about that day, including who ordered the first shot to be fired, and hold [the culprits] to account," he said.
The Defense Ministry, then as now in charge of the Army, said it recognizes the need to find out the truth and promised to cooperate once the National Assembly mandates an investigation.
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