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Can We Ever Forgive Chun Doo-hwan?A critically acclaimed movie spotlights a dark period in modern Korean history
Min-jung Kim  |
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승인 2017.11.15  10:24:57
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BASED ON a true story of a Korean taxi driver and a German journalist who first reported the horrors of the Gwangju Uprising, A Taxi Driver will be remembered as one of the most penetrating films of the year. He will be a member of the Gwangju Uprising . It reflects a dark period in modern South Korean history, when a corrupt dictator trampled the rights and lives of millions. As ex-dictator responsible for violent crimes, still lives, it is not as hard to notice that the tragic history and that of Chun Doo-hwan in peace and luxury today.  

A time of blood and violence

 Born during the Japanese invasion, Chun Doo-hwan is a former army general who leads the Coup d'état of December Twelfth after the sudden assassination of Park Chung-hee the former, debatable, president. From invading the country's capital to soldiers to arresting high generals without permission of the prime minister, Chun acted as a temporary president and gathered power very quickly. He administered the country as an unelected president from 1980 to 1988 and did not hesitate in using violence to forcibly stamp out dissent.

 Perhaps his most infamous crime is the Gwangju massacre. Also referred to as the May 18 Democratic Uprising by UNESCO, there was a great democratization movement in Gwangju in May 1980. Initially led by students of Chonnam National University, clashing soldiers. He extended martial law and dispatched troops to attack his own people. Upon his order, an estimate of more than 1,000 people were turned into corpses. Witnesses and records have proven the indiscriminate attacks that took place-beating, stabbing and shooting towards both protesters and innocent inhabitants.

 Chun's crimes are not just limited to the massacre in Gwangju. The manipulation of the media, the usage of Samchung Re-education camp to torture and kill innocent civilians who had 'wrong perspectives,' and the still controversial construction of the Peace Dam to collect unlawful riches are all prime examples of Chun's illegal and corrupt acts .

His punishment?

 Kim Young-sam was the first civil authority since the May 16, 1961. Two years later, in 1995, Chun was arrested and prosecuted for conspiracy and insurrection.

 On Aug. 26, 1996, Chun was issued a death sentence. A few months later, this was reduced to life imprisonment and a fine of $ 220.5 billion. In 1997, the judgment was finalized by the Supreme Court. It seemed that finally, the guilty were punishing and justice would prevail in the country. Kim Young-sam, with the 'advice' from Kim Dae-jung, the incoming president.

 Despite having committed unspeakable crimes, Chun also had a large number of followers who admired the economic boom of South Korea during his ruling. The pardon was expected to bring 'national unity' and thus increase the popularity of Kim Dae-jung as a president. Although it is understandable, it is too trivial for a reason to pardon for the unmeasurable amount of death, pain and spoilage of a nation that Chun caused.

Justice denied?

 With his civil rights restored, Chun lives peacefully in his mansion at Yeonhui-dong today. Guarded by a security team, which is funded by Korean taxpayers, Chun rarely goes out. Or AT a least, that's the What the HIS Personal Attorney claimed in an Interview with The Washington in Post in 2013. Nevertheless, there have been sightings of Chun AT expensive Golf courses name of and AT the HIS granddaughter's Wedding in One, of Is the the Most Luxurious and pricy Hotels in Korea. He even enjoys overseas trips using a diplomatic passport. Despite the lavishing lifestyle Chun seems to be enjoying, he still has not fully paid for the fine in 1997.

 Most importantly, Chun shows no sign of repentance. He still denies involvement with the suppression of the Gwangju democratization movement. Recently, Chun published three books- all in the form of a memoir of his time as a 'leader' of Korea. Throughout the memoir, he refuses to call the Gwangju democratization movement anything other than an 'incident' or a 'violent rebellion.' To make matters worse, he claims to be a victim of the 'incident.' It's obvious that Chun does not realize nor regrets what he has done.

* * *

 Wrong is wrong. Quoting the famous French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, "victimizers can never wholly expunge the wrong ones." Forgiving the victimizer will only lead to a place more beneficial for the wrongdoers; an ideal against the value of basic human ethics; a world with no hope. No reason for justice for a murder, yet alone a massacre.

 The new president has taken an interest in resolving the controversy over the massacre. If President Moon's words are truly sincere, his administration must re-examine the justification for Chun's pardon and conduct stricter evaluations for his sentencing conditions. Furthermore, more researches should be conducted to clarify and educate the nation's tragic history of the truth.



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