Tame crazy conspiracy-mongeringA renewed conspiracy theory about North Korea’s involvement in the May 18 popular uprising and massacre in Gwangju 33 years ago is roiling the society. The theory is quickly gaining ground through testimonies by unidentifiable North Korean defectors on the media and Internet. They claim the North Korea leadership and military were behind the uprising in Gwangju. About 600 North Korean commando troops allegedly infiltrated South Korea and occupied the South Jeolla provincial administration. The government army from the military regime of President Chun Doo Hwan was dispatched there to fight them, and civilian casualties took place during the clash, according to the theory. The scenario became inflated as the rumors spread through mobile platforms.
The scenario is not entirely new as it had been originally claimed by the Chun military junta; it defined the rising protests against its coup d’etat and the democracy movement as a rebellion inspired by communist sympathizers. But that’s hardly plausible. Even the chief martial law commander that led the operation admitted that the talk of North Korean involvement had been overblown. The Defense Ministry’s truth-finding committee also pointed out in its 2007 report that the military regime distorted the civilian democracy movement and uprising as an organized rebellion led by North Korean spies and sympathizers.
The truth and history on the May 18 uprising has been redefined as a civilian democracy movement against an oppressive military regime. We now all agree that the sacrifices and deaths in Gwangju have helped promote democracy in the country. The sudden talk of rumors about North Korean involvement is an insult to the victims and their families. They also undermine the root of our democratization movement and spirit.
Rumors and conspiracy theories have had a hazardous effect on our society. There were talks that North Koreans had not been behind the sinking of our warship Cheonan and that one could get mad cow disease upon eating U.S. beef. The latest rumor on Pyongyang involvement in the Gwangju uprising is also ridiculous. What’s more obnoxious is that some bloggers are insulting the Gwangju democracy movement and those who died in the massacre. Regardless of ideological preferences, we must question the intelligence of those who have gone beyond the freedom of expression.
We are all angry and upset by unsavory remarks by far-right politicians of Japan. But we cannot criticize them if our society, too, bears such groups of irrationals. The government and politicians cannot prevent this alone. It’s up to all the people to make common sense and reason prevail.