10 acquitted in lawsuit involving 1980 uprising

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10 acquitted in lawsuit involving 1980 uprising

The Daegu District Court yesterday acquitted 10 members of a pro-Chun Doo Hwan group of a defamation charge filed against them for posting an unverified rumor online about the Gwangju uprising.

The court, presided over by Judge Yoon Kwon-won, found the 10 defendants not guilty of defaming those associated with the 1980 Gwangju Massacre, which left some 200 people dead and gave birth to a national struggle for democracy.

The court said the historical assessment of the uprising has been firmly established: It was an uprising for democracy against the military regime.

“The Gwangju uprising’s standing in Korean history was not affected by online remarks posted by the 10 defendants,” the court said. “In the postings, there was no content that specifically points to any individual [involved in the uprising], thereby damaging the honor of the men of merit.”

A 39-year-old man surnamed Oh and nine other defendants, who are all members of the pro-Chun group - whose name can roughly be translated to “The group of people who revere Chun Doo Hwan” - were accused of having defamed victims and survivors of the Gwangju Massacre by claiming that North Korea’s special forces intervened in a bid to destabilize the Southern government.

The 10 members posted remarks over a four-year period, from 2005 through 2008, on the Internet portal Daum, contending that the Gwangju Massacre was actually a riot initiated by disgruntled residents in Gwangju who were aided by North Korea. The May 18 Men of Merit Association, as well as the victims’ families of the Gwangju Massacre, filed a suit against the 10 defendants, accusing them of defaming the Gwangju victims.

Over the course of the trial, the defense team claimed that the rumor about the North Korean Army’s involvement was widely circulated among North Korean defectors.

“The members simply posted their personal thoughts on the matter after hearing the accounts,” defense lawyer Suh Seok-ku said.

Following the bloody crackdown of the Gwangju uprising, Chun assumed the presidency and put the country under autocratic rule for seven years.

BY KIM YUN-HO, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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