Rhee’s April 19 apology thwarted

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Rhee’s April 19 apology thwarted

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Rhee In-soo, center, adopted son of former President Syngman Rhee, is physically blocked from the graves of victims of the April 19 Movement by protestors as he tries to apologize yesterday at the April 19 National Democracy Cemetery in Seoul. By Byun Sun-goo


Rhee In-soo, adopted son of former autocrat Syngman Rhee, attempted to apologize yesterday for the killings of antigovernment protestors in the April 19 Movement of 1960, the first offer of reconciliation in 51 years.

He was prevented from giving his apology when 70 members of foundations for the victims and their relatives formed a human wall that blocked Rhee from reaching the April 19 National Democracy Cemetery in Suyu-dong, northern Seoul, where the victims of the movement are interred.

Rhee gave up and held a press conference at his father’s former house, Ewhajang, in Ewha-dong, Seoul.

“It is a great shame that the groups related to the April 19 Movement did not accept the decision that the Syngman Rhee Memorial Foundation and [the late president’s] family made after 51 years,” Rhee told reporters. “I understand what the families who lost children or relatives from the government’s mistake are going through. I beg for forgiveness for the historical mistake and a reconciliation before it is too late.”

The April 19 Movement began after a vice presidential election was considered to have been rigged by Rhee’s government, spurring students to protest. On April 11, 1960, the body of a student named Kim Ju-yeol washed up on a beach in Masan, South Gyeongsang, and the government’s claim that he had drowned was disproved by students who stormed the hospital and found Kim had been killed by a tear gas grenade that split his head open. Roughly 20,000 students gathered in Seoul on April 19, and police fired randomly into crowds, eventually killing 183 and injuring over 6,000 people. They were later discovered to have been given orders to kill protestors. Rhee was forced to step down on April 26, 1960.

The white-haired, 80-year-old Rhee had announced days earlier that he was planning to read an apology at the cemetery.

Rhee told the JoongAng Ilbo over the weekend that it was finally time to “comfort the souls that were sacrificed.”

But members of victims foundations formed a human wall in front of the bus carrying Rhee and roughly 20 others belonging to the Syngman Rhee Memorial Foundation, stopping the bus 2 meters from the gates of the cemetery and Rhee was physically prevented from getting into the cemetery.

“This is not an apology, but a notification out of the blue,” said Oh Kyung-seop, president of the 4.19 Revolution Association. “How can they come to the cemetery without our permission? What victim’s family would accept it if they come without our consent and get their photos taken by the press while reading the statement?”

“I do not deny that former President Rhee deserves credit for the independence movement of Korea, for building up the country and blocking the North Korean invasion,” Yoo Se-hee, an professor emeritus at Hanyang University in Seoul and veteran of the April 19 Movement told the JoongAng Ilbo. “But these do not justify his dictatorship. The mistake of firing into crowds that were protesting against injustice was too big a mistake to be forgotten.”


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

4·19 기념식, 이승만 유족 사과 무산

아들 이인수씨 참배 저지 당해
4월회 윤영오 회장은 “늦었지만 용기 있는 행동”

4·19 혁명 51주년인 19일, 이승만 전 대통령의 유족이 서울 수유동 4·19국립묘지를 참배하려다 4·19혁명 관련 단체의 저지로 무산됐다.

이날 오전 9시, 이 전 대통령의 양자인 이인수(80) 박사와 사단법인 건국대통령 이승만박사기념사업회(이하 기념사업회, 회장 이기수) 소속 회원 25명이 기념식장을 찾았다. 이들은 묘지 정문으로 입장도 하기 전에 70여 명의 희생자 단체 회원들에 의해 길이 막혔다. 회원들은 “4·19 정신을 두 번 죽이는 것”이라며 “광화문에 이승만 전 대통령 동상을 세우려고 뒤늦게 사과하는 것 아니냐”고 소리쳤다.

애초 이 박사는 4·19 당시 숨진 학생과 유족에게 보내는 사과문을 읽을 예정이었으나 몸싸움에 밀려 10분 만에 발걸음을 돌려야 했다. 서울 종로구 이화장(이승만 전 대통령이 거주하던 곳)으로 돌아온 이 박사는 기자회견을 열고 “무력으로 저지 당한 것은 유감스럽지만 희생자 가족들의 심정을 충분히 이해한다”고 밝혔다. 이 박사는 이어 성명서에서 “51년 만에 내린 역사적인 사죄 결정을 관련 단체들이 받아들이지 않아 안타깝다”며 “더 늦기 전에 역사의 잘못을 사죄하고 화해해야 한다는 저와 기념사업회의 간곡한 뜻을 알아줬으면 좋겠다”고 했다.

이 박사의 참배를 막은 이들이 “직접 사과하러 오지 않는 등 진정성이 없다”고 비판한 데 대해서도 해명했다. 김일주 기념사업회 사무총장은 “사전 접촉을 하려 했는데 대표적인 4·19 관련 단체가 3곳이나 됐고 태도가 강경한 분들도 있어 다 양해를 구하지 못했다”며 “앞으로 1년이든, 2년이든 노력하겠다”고 말했다.

4·19 혁명 단체가 모두 이 박사의 참배를 반대한 것은 아니다. 4월회 회장인 윤영오 국민대 명예교수는 “늦었지만 용기 있는 행동이다. 그동안 부정적 이미지가 많았던 이승만 전 대통령에 대한 공과(功過)를 평가하는 계기가 될 것”이라고 말했다. 4·19혁명공로자회 이기택 회장(민주평통 수석부의장)은 본지 4월 18자 시론에서 개인 의견임을 전제로 “4월 혁명은 대한민국 건국과 자유민주헌정 등 ‘이승만의 성취’를 부정한 바 없다. 단지 이승만 정권의 독재와 자유당의 부정, 비리, 불의에 대한 부정이었다. 현대사의 성숙을 위해 역사와의 화해를 제의한다”고 밝힌 바 있다.

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