Yoon orders aides, PPP lawmakers to attend May 18 ceremony
Sources in Yoon’s office exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo Sunday that all newly appointed presidential secretaries, ministers and PPP lawmakers are expected to travel to Gwangju, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital, on Wednesday “unless they have prearranged schedules.”
Almost all will attend the event, the sources said.
A ceremony marking the 42nd anniversary of the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement will be held in the city to honor pro-democracy activists who lost their lives there, fighting against then-President Chun Doo Hwan, who seized power through a coup in 1979.
Chun, a military general-turned-president, dispatched special forces to Gwangju, who opened fire on protestors and deployed brutal tactics such as beatings to crush the demonstrations. The events were later deemed the bloodiest massacre in modern Korean history.
According to the May 18 Memorial Foundation, 154 people were killed during the 10-day uprising or from injuries they sustained during the protests. Seventy people were recognized as missing, presumably buried in unmarked graves.
Today, along with the surrounding provinces of South Jeolla and North Jeolla, Gwangju holds a reputation as a liberal stronghold. Conservative politicians like Yoon have often flocked to the metropolitan city for photo-ops and to stress the importance of national unity.
On Feb. 6, while running for president as a candidate of the conservative PPP, Yoon traveled to the May 18th National Cemetery, which houses the graves of pro-democracy activists, and said that “working toward the development of Honam [referring to Gwangju and the Jeolla provinces] is pertinent for the entire nation.” During the visit, Yoon urged Honam citizens not to hold any prejudice against him simply due to the fact that he was running with the backing of the PPP, stressing that the party had “changed a lot.”
A high-level PPP official told the JoongAng Ilbo via telephone Sunday that by ordering all his secretaries, ministers and PPP lawmakers to attend the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement ceremony, Yoon was basically “firing a signal of national unity.”
Yoon’s office said that among the attendees will be Kim Dae-ki, the president's chief of staff; Kang Seung-kyoo, senior secretary for relations with nongovernmental organizations; Choi Young-bum, senior secretary for communications; Choi Sang-mok, senior secretary for economic affairs; Ahn Sang-hoon, senior secretary for social affairs; and Lee Jin-bok, senior secretary for political affairs.
At least 14 ministers who have been appointed by Yoon were told to attend Wednesday’s ceremony, but it remains to be seen how many will show up.
PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok wrote on Facebook Sunday that every lawmaker in the party has decided to attend the ceremony unless they had a conflict in their schedule that could not be rearranged. A PPP source said most attending lawmakers will be taking a special KTX bullet train departing from Seoul Station in Jung District, central Seoul on Wednesday morning.
BY HYUN IL-HOON, LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]