S Korea apol­o­gises for rapes by soldiers

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

SOUTH Korea’s de­fence min­istry on Wed­nes­day broke decades of si­lence to apol­o­gise for mar­tial l aw troops rap­ing women in­clud­ing teenagers when they crushed a pro-democ­racy up­ris­ing in 1980.

De­fence min­is­ter Jeong Kyeong-doo is­sued a pub­lic apol­ogy for the in­flict­ing of “un­speak­able, deep scars and pain” on “in­no­cent women” who were raped and sub­jected to “sex tor­ture” by soldiers crack­ing down on protests against a mil­i­tary coup by gen­eral Chun Doo-hwan.

D e mon s t r a t o r s i n t h e south­ern city of Gwangju and pa sser sby were beaten to deat h, tor t ured, bay­o­neted a nd disembowel led or r id­dled with bul­lets.

Con­ser­va­tives in the South con­tinue to con­demn the up­ris­ing as a Com­mu­nist-in­spired re­bel­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, more than 200 peo­ple were left dead or miss­ing, while ac­tivists say the toll may have been three times as much.

Chun’s troops were be­lieved to have also car­ried out wide­spread sex­ual as­saults against women but the is­sue has long been swept un­der the car­pet a s t r a u ma t i s e d v i c t i ms re­mained re­luc­tant to come for­ward.

The mood changed fol­low­ing the elec­tion of lib­eral cur­rent Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, who made un­cov­er­ing the truth about Gwangju a cam­paign is­sue, and when one of the vic­tims was em­bold­ened by South Korea’s grow­ing #MeToo move­ment.

Protestor Kim Sun-ok told a tele­vi­sion in­ter­viewer in May that she had been raped by an in­ter­roga­tor in 1980, prompt­ing au­thor­i­ties to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that con­firmed 17 cases.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion has con­firmed rapes, sex­ual as­saults and sex tor­tures were com­mit­ted by mar­tial law troops,” the de­fence min­is­ter said in a state­ment.

Vic­tims in­cluded teenagers and young women, in­clud­ing “young stu­dents and a pregna nt woman who were not even ta k ing part in t he protests”, he told dur­ing a press con­fer­ence.

“On beha lf of t he gover nment a nd mi l it a r y, I bow deeply and of­fer my words of apolog y for the un­speak­able, deep scars and pain inf licted on in­no­cent v ic­tims,” Jeong said.

But Kim re­jected the apol­ogy. “I didn’t lis­ten to it be­cause of my trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. “But un­less those re­spon­si­ble are brought to jus­tice and duly pun­ished, a mil­lion apolo­gies would be mean­ing­less.”

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