Court bans sales of memoir by Chun Doo Hwan

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Court bans sales of memoir by Chun Doo Hwan

A local court banned the publication of a memoir by former President Chun Doo Hwan on Friday for “distorting the history of the May 18 democratic movement” by stating that North Korea incited the movement and that he was not responsible for the crackdown on it.

A group of organizations dedicated to the May 18 movement and relatives of those who died in the crackdown filed a petition with the Gwangju District Court in June to ban the publication and distribution of “Chun Doo Hwan Memoirs,” a three-volume memoir written by Chun and published by Birch Forest in April.

The group said that the book contained false statements including that the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement was a riot incited by North Korea; that the military did not fire on the rally participants from a helicopter; that there was no civilian massacre; and that Chun took no part in the crackdown.

The court accepted the petition and banned publication and distribution of Book No. 1 of “Chun Doo Hwan Memoirs,” which contains the sections objected to by the group.

“The book distorts the history of the May 18 democratic movement and disparages the people and organizations who took part in the movement, to a point that it cannot be admitted as a freedom of expression,” said the Gwangju District Court. “The book is to be banned from publication, printing, copying, selling, distributing and advertising, unless it deletes its contents about North Korean interference and Chun’s denial of declaration of martial law.”

If anyone violates the court’s decision, he or she must pay the petitioner 5 million won ($4,428), the court said.

The May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement refers to the 10-day civil uprising against the military dictatorship of the Chun government from May 18, 1980, when students from Chonnam National University staged a protest in Gwangju calling for democracy.

The following day, the Chun government dispatched Special Forces soldiers to Gwangju, who opened fire on protesters to crush the demonstration. The protesters responded by looting local police stations to obtain their own weapons. Statistics from the May 18 Memorial Foundation indicates nearly 154 were killed during the uprising or after due to injuries, and 70 others went missing.

The group also filed for 210 million won in compensation from Chun for “publishing distorted information and causing harm to relatives of those who died in the movement.”

Chun and his affiliates have told media outlets that the memoir was “a part of freedom of expression” and previously have requested a different court to take the case, saying the Gwangju District Court has possible political leanings against Chun. The request was not granted.

“We will review our options, such as deleting or editing the said sections,” said a spokesman of the Birch Forest publication company.

BY CHOI KYUNG-HO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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