U.S. offers declassified documents on 1980 Gwangju

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U.S. offers declassified documents on 1980 Gwangju

The United States has provided Korea with declassified diplomatic documents on a 1980 pro-democracy movement here, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, raising hopes that the documents could shed more light on a bloody military crackdown on the uprising.
On Monday, Washington handed over copies of about 140 pages of State Department documents, including those produced by the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, regarding the May 18 movement in the southwestern city of Gwangju.
Many of the documents are unredacted versions of documents that Washington had previously declassified with some parts deleted, Kim In-chul, the ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.
Relevant government agencies and experts will first pore over the documents before deciding whether the general public will have access to them, he added.
Led by the junta of then Gen. Chun Doo Hwan, who took power in a military coup after the assassination of President Park Chung Hee in 1979, the crackdown resulted in hundreds of deaths in Gwangju, now dubbed the cradle of the country's democracy.
The handover of the documents came after the ministry asked the United States in November to consider declassifying documents related to the movement amid public calls to uncover the truth behind the deadly quashing of the movement.
"Our government will continue consultations with the United States so that more U.S. documents regarding the pro-democracy movement will be released," the ministry said in a press release.
Meanwhile, an independent committee launched an investigation Tuesday into the bloody crackdown on a 1980 pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju, it said, as next week marks the 40th anniversary of the tragedy.
The May 18 Democratization Movement Truth Commission said it will look into who was responsible for the use of military force against civilians protesting against the junta of Chun Doo Hwan.
The tank-led crackdown resulted in hundreds of deaths.
South Korea passed a special law in 2018 to launch the commission. It will operate for two years, with a one-year extension allowed if necessary.
One of the major issues to be investigated is who ordered the helicopter gunship attacks on the protesters. 
A separate fact-finding committee under the Defense Ministry earlier confirmed that the martial law forces fired shots from choppers, but it failed to reveal who ordered the operation.
The commission plans to secure more documents from overseas, including the United States and Japan, to uncover the truth behind the deadly quashing of the movement.
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