Newly declassified document shows Chun Doo-hwan's rise in power in 1980s
Updated: 2021-06-03 10:27:27 KST
South Korea's foreign ministry on Wednesday took delivery of a 53-page declassified document from the U.S. State Department, depicting the political situation in South Korea during the early 1980s.
Titled "the oppression in Seoul," the document shows the growing political influence of a military junta led by then Army Major General Chun Doo-hwan on the backdrop of a weakened President Choi Kyu-hah.
Chun had led a 1979 military coup and seized power for nine years until 1988 overthrowing civilian President Choi who took over as interim president following the assassination of Park Chung-hee.
The document also shows that the junta had seized power by declaring a state emergency a move that would put the country under martial law.
Noticeably, the document portrays Choi as a "helpless president" who lacked authority in comparison to Chun, a military and political heavyweight.
Then Defense Minister Choo Young-bok was shown confessing to then visiting U.S. lawmaker Lester Wolff that he had little control over the armed forces and had asked for his help.
All in all, the document appears to portray Washington's reluctant acknowledgement of Chun's influence a "dilemma" at the time since a crack in the South Korean military was a concern for Washington amid security threats from North Korea.
The documents' release by Washington is in response to a request from Seoul for 80 documents in total .related to the May 18th Democratization Movement in Gwangju in 1980.
43 were released last year and another 14 this year.
The remaining 23 are yet to be released amid speculation they're key in uncovering the events which led to the South Korean military crackdown of protesters against Chun Doo-hwan in Gwangju which left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.
Chun was given a suspended prison sentence last year for defaming an eyewitness.
He continues to deny that helicopters, machine guns and snipers were mobilized to open fire on civilians despite multiple testimonies by eyewitnesses.
In 1996, Chun was found guilty of mutiny, treason and corruption and was originally sentenced to death.
But he was released in 1997 following a presidential pardon.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.