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Yoon vows to uphold spirit of 1980 pro-democracy uprising

All News 13:40 May 18, 2022

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol vowed Wednesday to firmly uphold the spirit of a 1980 pro-democracy uprising in the southwestern city of Gwangju, saying freedom, human rights and liberal democracy were the values the revolt sought to defend with blood.

Yoon made the remark during a ceremony marking the 42nd anniversary of the Gwangju Democratization Movement after traveling by high-speed KTX train to Gwangju, some 330 km southeast of Seoul, together with nearly all lawmakers of the ruling People Power Party in an effort to promote national unity.

"We remember the resistance of May, which 42 years ago defended the values of a liberal democracy and human rights with blood," Yoon said during the ceremony held at the May 18th National Cemetery.

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a memorial ceremony at a national cemetery in the southwestern city of Gwangju on May 18, 2022, to mark the 42nd anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising. The Gwangju May 18 National Cemetery honors hundreds of people who were killed in the city during protests against the military junta of Chun Doo-hwan in May 1980. (Yonhap)

"The May spirit is a restoration of universal values and nothing less than the liberal democratic spirit of the Constitution," he said.

Yoon said the spirit of the uprising lives on and demands the current generation stand up against all illegal acts that threaten freedom and human rights.

Prosperity for future generations and the country begins with inheriting the spirit of the uprising in a responsible manner, he added.

"We must spread the values of a liberal democracy and human rights contained within the May spirit far into the world," Yoon said. "We all must be able to boldly enjoy the universal values of freedom and human rights. Infringements on the freedom and human rights of all persons should not be neglected. We must all defend them together."

Yoon promised to develop the economy of Gwangju and the surrounding Honam region by investing in artificial intelligence and other advanced technology industries.

"The new government and I will do our best to develop the values defended by the souls of democracy to put (Gwangju and Honam) on a path to prosperity," he said. "I will firmly defend the May spirit. I promise to open a great future for Gwangju together with you."

Yoon's visit to Gwangju was seen as an act of reaching out to the home turf of the liberal main opposition Democratic Party amid perceptions his conservative party has ties to the former authoritarian regime of Chun Doo-hwan.

Chun ordered a crackdown on the uprising, and left more than 200 dead and 1,800 others wounded, according to conservative official data.

"The values of a liberal democracy and human rights are a philosophy of unity that binds our people together," Yoon said. "That is why the May spirit that defended our liberal democracy in blood is the cornerstone for national unity."


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