Probe to check Chun’s order to kill

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Probe to check Chun’s order to kill

The Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday that a fact-finding committee will investigate testimony by a former American intelligence specialist that former strongman Chun Doo Hwan visited Gwangju and issued a de facto order to kill protesters during the 1980 democratic uprising in the southern city.

“We think extra verification is necessary on the issue,” said Choi Hyun-soo, a ministry spokeswoman, during a regular press briefing on Tuesday. “The ministry has a task force to support the fact-finding committee. If the fact-finding committee is officially formed and a probe begins, we will be able to cooperate more actively.”

Kim Yong-chang, a former intelligence specialist with the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade of the United States, attended a press conference on Monday at the National Assembly and revealed what he had witnessed during the 1980 uprising in Gwangju.

“Chun’s purpose of visit [to Gwangju] was to give a shoot-to-kill order,” Kim said.

The military brutally crushed the uprising from May 18 to 27, 1980, which called for democracy and an end to Chun’s junta, who rose to power through a military coup just five months earlier. While the official death toll was 193, hundreds more are believed to have been killed or injured by armed soldiers. The National Assembly passed a special act in February last year to investigate anti-democratic and inhumane actions committed by the state during the uprising and the Chun administration’s follow-up activities to conceal the truth about it. The fact-finding committee, however, has not yet launched.

With the fact-finding mission stalled, new witnesses came forward to discuss the incident. During the press conference on Monday, Kim discussed details of Chun’s visit to Gwangju in 1980.

“He arrived at the K57 [Gwangju Air Base for the 1st Fighter Wing] around noon on May 21,” Kim said. “He used a helicopter and he held a meeting at the K57 commander’s office immediately upon his arrival.”

“These were what I had reported to my upper chain of command,” Kim said. “But taking into account the fact that the soldiers opened fire at the protesters around 1 p.m. in front of the city hall, I believe Chun’s purpose of visit was to give a shoot-to-kill order.”

At the press conference, the former U.S. intelligence specialist dismissed some conservative politicians and commentators’ argument that North Korea was behind the uprising in Gwangju.

“That is a fabrication produced by Chun,” he said. “They said 600 North Korean soldiers were there, and that means the U.S. intelligence network had a breach. At the time, two U.S. spy satellites intensively monitored North Korea and Gwangju. It was impossible for them to infiltrate.”

He also said some undercover special forces pretended to be protesters.

“They came to [Gwangju] aboard a transport plane from Seongnam Air Base. I reported at the time there were about 30 to 40 of them,” Kim said. “They were young men in their 20s and 30s, and some of them wore wigs [to hide] their short hair … Chun was the man who sent them to Gwangju.”

“Arson, shootings and operation of armored vehicles, supposedly done by the North Korean guerillas, were suspected to be done by the South Korean special troops,” Kim said. “They are also suspected of having spread false rumors by posing as protesters.”

Heo Jang-hwan, a former investigator of the military’s Gwangju 505 Security Unit, also said at the press conference that soldiers opened fire at protesters with the intent to kill them.

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