Saenuri’s Kim abused at Gwangju memorial

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Saenuri’s Kim abused at Gwangju memorial

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Someone threw a bottle of water at Kim Moo-sung, center, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, on the eve of the May 18 Gwangju Uprising Commemoration on Sunday. [NEWSIS]

Ruling party Chairman Kim Moo-sung made an unprecedented visit to an event in Gwangju on the eve of the anniversary of the 1980 uprising Sunday and was showered with abuse and water.

Despite the ruling party chairman’s frequent trips to the Jeolla region, the opposition’s traditional stronghold is still hostile to the conservative party linked to past dictatorships, especially on the 35th anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising, also called the Gwangju Democratic Movement, that killed about 160 people.

As Kim appeared at the event Sunday, he was surrounded by protesters who cursed him and other representatives of the ruling Saenuri Party. Other participants and even the speaker on the stage asked Kim to leave the event.

One person in the crowd poured water on him from a bottle.

Kim eventually left the scene after 30 minutes.

Saenuri floor leader Yoo Seong-min expressed regrets over the incident.

“Chairman Kim and representatives [of the Seanuri Party] were jeered and even doused with water,” Yoo said at the party’s supreme council meeting on Monday. “[They] had to voluntarily leave the scene because people could get hurt, but I think it’s very regretful.”

The Jeolla provinces are famously unfriendly to the ruling party, especially after the uprising 35 years ago. In the 10-day protest in May 1980 against the Chun Doo Hwan junta, the military government opened fire on the protesters, which resulted in 163 deaths, 166 missing and more than 3,000 people wounded, according to the Gwangju government.

Chun’s Democratic Justice Party was a predecessor of the current ruling Saenuri Party.

However, the left-leaning region also gave a rocky reception to Moon Jae-in, chairman of New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), which lost a by-election on April 29 in Gwangju’s Seo B district.

When Moon showed up at the same event Sunday, a crowd of people demanded he take responsibility for the defeat and resign. They criticized the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction’s control over the NPAD. Moon, who is head of that faction, stayed at the event for about an hour.

The chairmen of the ruling and main opposition parties also attended a ceremony to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the uprising held at the May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju. But the ceremony by the Ministry of Patriots and Veteran Affairs was boycotted by relatives of the uprising victims, who held their own ceremony at the former South Jeolla Provincial Office, one of the places where protesters at the uprising were shot dead in the crackdown.

The conflict between the relatives of the victims and the government is focused on a song written for the victims. “March for the Beloved” was first written for the posthumous wedding of two of the victims, and it has been sung to commemorate the Gwangju Uprising and other landmarks of the Korean democracy movement.

Patriots and Veteran Affairs Minister Park Sung-choon, however, has opposed it being used to commemorate the Gwangju Uprising because the song was once used in a North Korean movie.

The song used to be sung together by crowds at the annual event. But in 2009, that was changed. Now it is sung by a choir and attendees at a commemoration may choose to sing it or not depending on their political beliefs. Park and Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, who attended for the prime minister, did not sing.

The chairmen of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition NPAD made it clear that they think the song should be sung by everyone at the ceremony.

“It doesn’t make sense that the government is not allowing us to sing a song for two victims’ posthumous marriage only because North Korea used it in a movie,” Saenuri Chairman Kim said. “I think the song should be sung by all.”

“The Park government is trying to erase the great history of [the Gwangju Democratic Movement],” Moon said. “They are linking the ‘March for the Beloved’ to the North in order to regard it in an ideological manner and isolate [the Jeolla provinces].”

BY KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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