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Gov't launches probe into sexual violence during 1980 pro-democracy uprising

All News 10:00 June 08, 2018

SEOUL, June 8 (Yonhap) -- The government launched a fact-finding commission Friday to look into sexual assaults by soldiers who were sent to suppress a pro-democracy uprising in the southern city of Gwangju in 1980.

The fact-finding mission is part of the government's wider efforts to find out who was responsible for the mobilization of military forces against the civilian protest against the then-ruling junta of Chun Doo-hwan.

The new commission, jointly headed by the vice minister for gender equality and the secretary general of the National Human Rights Commission, will collect and investigate cases of sexual violence by the military during the May 18th Democratization Movement by going through military documents and gathering reports from victims and their families, according to the government.

It starts on Friday and runs till Oct. 31 and will have 12 members from the ministries of gender equality and defense, as well as the national human rights commission, plus the two co-heads.

The results of the probe will be transferred to another government task force launched in early March to find the truth behind the deadly military crackdown on the Gwangju uprising.

The task force followed the March 13 passing of a special law on looking into the truth surrounding the democratization movement.

"I could not repress the sense of misery when I recall the women whose ordinary lives were ravaged and damaged in the historic scene, as well as the Gwangju civilians who sacrificed themselves to safeguard the value of democracy 38 years ago," Vice Gender Equality Minister Lee Sook-jin said in a press release. "The joint fact-finding commission will put in its utmost efforts to excavate the full historic truth behind sexual violence committed by the then-martial law army and others so as to prevent a repeat of any sexual violence on women by government authorities on this soil."

In May 1980, angry students started protests against the Chun regime. As paratroopers beat and arrested them, many indignant ordinary citizens joined the demonstrations. When the troops fired into a crowd, protesting civilians began to arm themselves, forming a defense force called the Citizens Army. The bloodshed led to the deaths of around 200 people, and 1,000 others were wounded, according to an official tally. But other estimates put the death toll at 1,000-2,000.


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