On Monday (January 7, 2019), I entered the hearing room at the Gwangju High Court. It was the latest hearing of former president Chun Doo Hwan’s defamation trial. The hearing room was houseful of the people related to May 18 Democratic Movement of 1980.
We waited until the clock struck 2.30 pm when a court judge appeared. There was a silence as the hearing began. Everybody was attentive to the hearing. Thereafter, Chun’s lawyer announced that he (Chun) could not come to the court because he suffered from flu and high fever. The announcement burst the silence and people started shouting. I felt they were saying that he was a liar for the sickness.
Chun Doo Hwan is a great liar. He wrote lies in his first volume of his three-volume books – “Chun Doo Hwan Memoirs” – published in 2017 that there was no gunfire from a helicopter during the Gwangju Uprising. But late priest Cho Chul-hyun was an eyewitness for the incident in 1980, and he saw helicopters firing on protesters of Gwangju Uprising. Chun in his book, defamed priest Cho accusing that he (Cho) made a malicious argument and he should be ashamed to call himself a clergyman.
In response, priest Cho’s relatives and activists sued Chun for defamation in April 2017. The prosecution already confirmed that helicopters opened fire during the crackdown and Chun was indicted in May of last year.
Now Chun is left with the two options – either he himself should attend the court for the next hearing rescheduled for March 11 or will be forced to appear in the court. On Monday, Gwangju High Court has issued a warrant to force Chun to appear in the next hearing.
Victims, civil society activists, and Gwangju citizens at the press conference organized by the May 18 Memorial Foundation warned Chun to be sincere to appear in the court. According to the Foundation, the repression by his government to 10-day uprising in 1980 claimed lives of 154 or from injuries they sustained during it.
Let’s wait for March 11 if he appears to the court for his trial. But it appears as if he will find some excuse. This is evident. He first said he has symptoms of Alzheimers. Now he says that he has suffered from flu and fever. He has already asked for long time to prepare for the trial. Not only this, he also tried his best to change the trial jurisdiction for two times.