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(3rd LD) Opposition head cancels planned visit to ex-president

All Headlines 14:26 September 08, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS detail in para 3; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- Choo Mi-ae, newly elected head of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK), canceled her scheduled visit to former President Chun Doo-hwan next week, political sources said Thursday, amid criticism it is inappropriate to hold meetings with the military strongman.

Earlier in the day, Choo said she would visit Chun in an apparent bid to expand the support base of the liberal camp ahead of next year's presidential race and to appease conservative voters.

"While Choo earlier decided to meet Chun to bring different voices of the public together, the schedule has been canceled reflecting the opinions of other party executives," a party spokesman said.

Chun, who was president of the country from 1980-1988, 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.

While the decision to meet the former president could have become a symbolic appeasement gesture by the liberal bloc, especially as no liberal-leaning political party heads have visited Chun since 2003, Minjoo members, as well other opposition lawmakers, condemned Choo's move.

Choo Mi-ae (L), newly elected head of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, and former President Chun Doo-hwan (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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