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(LEAD) Opposition head to visit former President Chun

All News 11:54 September 08, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS details in last two paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- Choo Mi-ae, newly elected head of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK), is set to pay a visit to former President Chun Doo-hwan next week, political sources said Thursday, a move seen as her ongoing efforts to expand the support base of the liberal camp ahead of next year's presidential race.

A close aide to Choo said the visit aims to "bring the different public voices together." It will mark the first time since 2003 that the head of the liberal-leaning political party will visit Chun.

Chun, who was president of the country for seven years from 1981, remains a controversial figure among the liberal opposition bloc for his alleged involvement in the crackdown on the May 18 Democracy Movement in 1980. Tens of thousands of citizens rose up in Gwangju against the military junta led by Chun, who seized power in a December 1979 coup.

The government officially maintains that about 200 people were killed in the crackdown, although some put the estimate higher. Chun was sentenced to death in 1996 for his part in the suppression of the uprising but was later pardoned.

Political pundits said Choo's visit may spark opposition from other party members, especially from those from the South Jeolla Province and Gwangju.

Shortly after her appointment in late August, Choo also paid tribute to late President Park Chung-hee, the father of incumbent President Park Geun-hye, at the Seoul National Cemetery, also sparking a controversy.

"Next week's visit is only aimed at paying respects to the surviving (former President Chun) ahead of the Chuseok holiday," Choo said amid rising controversies. Chuseok is a major holiday in South Korea where people visit family and friends and pay respects to their elders.

Choo added the visit should not be related to the party's stance on "Honam," which refers to North and South Jeolla Province and the metropolitan city of Gwangju. The MPK has closely identified itself with the victims of the democracy movement.

Former President Chun Doo-hwan (Yonhap)


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